Sunday, April 22, 2007

Bye bye Brian

What a cracker-jack game! England just managed to scrape home against the Windies, with only a ball and a wicket to spare.

This was what the World Cup was supposed to be about. The match had passion, stroke-play, inspirational fielding and tension. Both sides played out of their skins to produce the best game of tournament, and the relaxed regulations resulting in the best atmosphere so far.

Everyone was left feeling: why now? Perhaps they thought that the World Cup really started now? Perhaps the released pressure allowed the players to relax and to “express themselves”. This is precisely what Chris Gayle did, by striking 79 off only 58 balls. This set the tone for the match, and put to bed any ambitions of the English openers to “build an innings”, and indeed Michael Vaughan positively struck 78 also, from 68 balls. Kevin Pieterson scored a match-winning 100, and Paul Nixon chipped in with a vital 38 at the death.

Michael Vaughan showed us he can bat in ODIs, that’s why I think they should keep him as captain, but with the instructions to Play His Shots. He’s alright really. Leave him alone.

There was some sizzling fielding, by both sides. Paul Collingwood took a stunning catch to dismiss Dwayne Smith, diving high to his left to snatch a bullet from the air. We also saw a total of six run-outs, some better than others, but a string of West Indian throws from the edge of the circle to put the English middle order in disarray.

The main occasion of the game was, of course, the seeing off of Brian Lara in his last international appearance. Unfortunately, after a sprightly 18, Marlon Samuels ran out the Great Man in rather unseemly circumstances. This put a dampener on the game, and the crowd was considerably quieter for the rest of the innings, acknowledging Samuels’ fifty with rather icy applause. It was a pity to see such a player felled in this fashion – but that’s cricket, I suppose.

To be honest, I wanted the Windies to win. I’m all for the underdog, even if it is against my own team. I was sad for the rest of the game, and I vindictively willed the English to lose wickets, just so Lara would get something out of a well-fought contest. I know I thought him a bit of a bastard the other day, after my personal run-in with the batting legend, but I do have some soft spots. And not where you think, either.

Cheerio Brian

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