Welcome to another instalment of World Cricket Watch’s weekly wrap-up of the cricketing landscape. In case you’re new to the column, please note that by no means do I try and exhaustively cover all the stats of every game played. Think of this column as more of a great way to catch up on what has happened through a conversation-style wrap up of the current series and important issues. So, here goes…
India in the West Indies
Before I get on to the current test match being played at Sabina Park, I want to briefly discuss the final ODI in the five match series that ended 3-2 to India. Now, this series had kind of nicely meandered along, with India securing the series after three matches, before the Windies had clawed back the fourth match. Who would have thought then that such an extraordinary event would take place in the fifth match in Jamaica?
The match itself was certainly entertaining, with India posting a fighting 251, before the Windies chased it down, thanks to a heroic knock from Ronnie Sarwan and a magnificent 86 from stylish Darren Bravo. BUT, the real story was the presence of the enormous fluro-clad, afro-sporting, shades-wearing dynamo in the stands…yes, none other than Chris Gayle. You see, Gayle is in the middle of a major dispute with the WICB, and is ineligible to play, and yet there he was larger than life with a hat sporting the word ‘Captain’ and cheering and hootering and hollering like no other! More poignant than even his presence, was the fact that upon hitting the winning runs, fellow Jamaican Marlon Samuels flew straight to the stand and embraced Gayle from the field.
What this means for the WICB, and also for current captain Darren Sammy, is up for debate. The WICB is surely pretty used to being in a state of constant battle with its top players. The likes of Gayle, Shiv Chanderpaul, Dwayne Bravo and Kieron Pollard have all been in various stages of acrimony with their board. But, at some point there must surely be a line in the sand drawn. The ramifications for Sammy’s leadership are also interesting, as Sammy’s captaincy will continue to be questioned based on his merit as a player. The inclusion of Gayle would surely result in the Windies fielding a stronger team, but his effect on team harmony would need to be watched closely.
Turning to the current test match, it’s been fantastic to see the return of the man they call THE WALL, Rahul Dravid (see the great film clip to the song that Pink Floyd wrote about him) Honestly, the positioning of the match could not have suited him better, with India collapsing, but requiring at least one player to batten down the hatches and make a stand. Enter The Wall, and his stoic 112 off 274 deliveries. The next best score was 28 from Amit Mishra, so you can see just how important the innings was in giving India a lead of 326. At time of writing (stumps day three) the Windies are 131 for 3, and unlikely to reach their target or certainly hold out two days for a draw. One last thing to note though is a return to form of Ishant Sharma who already has five important wickets for the match.
Sri Lanka in England
I’ve deliberately devoted a fair portion of this column to the series in the Caribbean, because this series in England is really fairly tedious to date. This has been due to not only the unevenness of the two teams, but also just a horrid run of weather, particularly in the third test at the Rose Bowl in Southampton.
Weather is weather, and there’s not much more I can add there, only that it was a shame to see the Rose Bowl’s first test match soured by such abysmal conditions. However, the distance between these two teams in class is certainly worth consideration. Sri Lanka’s strong point should be it’s batting, with the likes of Dilshan (admittedly injured for this test), Sangakkara, Mahela Jayawardene and Samaraweera. But, on the whole, they’ve been really disappointing. It was heartening to see a strong 119 from Sangakkara in the final innings to save the test (as well as 87 from Samaraweera), but these feted batsmen have yet to make runs to set-up Sri Lanka to be in a winning position. Furthermore, Sri Lanka’s bowling post-Vaas, Murali and Malinga, looks poor, and as such the likes of KP (85) and Ian Bell (119) have feasted.
England on the other hand, look like they’re on cruise control. It’s always good to see a team that just backs themselves in. If Strauss and Cook fail, they know it’s more than likely that one of Trott, KP, Bell or Prior will fire. Similarly, if Jimmy Anderson has one of his ‘off days’, he knows that Tremlett, Broad and Swann have his back. It’s just a really solid team right now, and the thought of their series against India coming up is really mouth watering.
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