Sri Lanka in England
Well…who would have thought that after such a dour test series, these teams would produce such a scintillating ODI series?? At various times in the series both teams looked far superior than the other, but in the end it was England who took it 3-2 with a thrilling victory in the final match at Old Trafford.
After posting an impressive 268, with thanks to Mr Reliable John Trott (72) and Eoin Morgan (57), England successfully defended the total by bowling Sri Lanka out for 252. I must say that at one point it looked as if Sri Lanka would coast it in, as the middle order got on top of England’s bowling. Kumar Sangakkara posted 48, the impressive Chandimal hit 54 and Angelo Matthews and B Mendis got 62 and 48 respectively. However, none could go on and finish the job, and England got the chocolates.
It was certainly good news for the English, who haven’t been in great ODI form, but Sri Lanka too can take something away from the series, as they battled impressively in foreign conditions and with a very much transitional squad. Credit too must go to Graeme Swann, who has elevated himself to the top ODI bowler in the world. Swann has that unfortunately rare quality of good skills and feisty temperament, and although sometimes he goes over the line, it is refreshing to see a top cricketer have a personality…so…well done Swanny! With the series over then, England will prepare for an epic tussle with India, whilst Sri Lanka has gone home to take on Michael Clarke’s Australia.
India in the West Indies
A 1-0 scoreline in a three test series might suggest a fairly boring set of matches, however that couldn’t be further from the case in this surprisingly close series. After battling it out for a draw in the second test, the Windies again managed to hold on in Dominica for an impressive draw. After posting a pretty disappointing 204 in their first dig, the Windies couldn’t capitalise on some good early bowling by Fidel Edwards, as India amassed 347 in 108 overs. All of the lower to middle order stood up for India, particularly VVS Laxman (56) Suresh Raina (50) and MS Dhoni (74), with Edwards capturing a five-wicket haul.
So, the script for the Windies, had it been based on their performances in the last ten years, would have involved a quick capitulation and probable innings defeat. However, this side has some real substance, and they posted 322, with debutant Kirk Edwards (110) and Shiv Chanderpaul (116) posting superb centuries. Credit must also go to Harbhajan Singh who wheeled out 42 overs and took 4/75 (that’s a economy rate of just 1.78!). India then flirted with the idea of chasing down a modest total under 200, but after some early fireworks from Ravi Rampaul, they quickly changed their minds and simply batted time until the umpires offered the captains the draw.
Some may ask why Darren Sammy, with India on 3/86, didn’t pursue a series leveling victory, and part of me would probably also question this approach. However, after further contemplation I realised that the actual end scores are not really relevant for the Windies yet. For too long they have been simply obliterated in test matches, and haven’t even been near getting a result. But in the last two series against Pakistan and India they have been right in matches, and although a drawn series with India would have been fantastic, they should be happy enough with being tough, resilient and stubborn in their resolve. It was heartening to see Darren Sammy use these performances as a blueprint for the next few years, and let us hope that the progress continues.
Shiv the Magnificent
Finally this week it is time to pay tribute to perhaps one of the most unlikely test batting greats. In the final test against India, Shiv Chanderpaul became the most capped West Indian test cricketer, and he duly celebrated the occasion with a typically dogged and gut-busting century against the odds. Chanderpaul is an odd cricketer all around. His batting style, where he walks into the delivery, is unique, he marks his crease by hitting a bail into the ground, and most importantly, unlike many of his generation of West Indian batsmen, he has resolve.
Honestly, Shiv must’ve seen a million young, flashy Windies batsmen come into the team and then head out again after dying on their sword. But not Shiv. He has been magnificent, and really, along with Brian Lara, one of only two great batsmen from the Caribbean in the last twenty years. So, in case you don’t believe me about just how good this dogged little guy from Guyana is, I’ll leave you this week with his unbelievable test record…good on you Shiv!
HIGHEST SCORE: 203*
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