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England clinch dramatic win in Lara's farewell
Prem Panicker | April 21, 2007 23:04 IST
Last Updated: April 22, 2007 03:51 IST
Brian Lara's farewell to international cricket ended in defeat, with the West Indies going down to England by one wicket in the concluding Super Eights match at the World Cup on Saturday.
The West Indies captain could score only 18 runs in his final innings as the team, powered by a 58-ball 79 from Chris Gayle, was dismissed for 300 on the penultimate ball of the innings.
England responded magnificently, thanks to a fighting century by man of the match Kevin Pietersen, clinching a dramatic victory with one ball to spare.
West Indies innings:
When a legend walks off a stage he has ruled, it is tempting to seek symbolism in the how, the manner of it all.
Think Eric Hollies - a leg break and googly bowler of no particular ability, who played 13 Tests for England - of which only one was against Australia.
Ignored for four Tests of the August 1948 Ashes series in England, he was brought in for the fifth and final one, at the Kensington Oval. He had Barnes caught behind; out came Donald Bradman and, one ball later, out walked Bradman, bowled Hollies for a golden duck.
The batsman whose wicket English bowlers priced dearer than gold, taken out by a bowler who was destined to become a sports trivia question on Mastermind.
Or take, today, Brian Charles Lara - the most brilliant batsman of his generation; a player who for all his incandescent talent failed to inspire a mediocre bunch to lift their game, to match his pride; a player who for the last several years batted on in the hope that younger, fresher talents would emerge to take over a mantle increasingly become burdensome.
That player, in his last ever international appearance, run out by one of those young players he had vested so much in - those looking for symbols can find a trove, right there.
Whatever. Lara went as he played - treating us to a glimpse of that very special talent, yet leaving us longing for so much more. Samuels pushed Broad in the direction of mid on, and clearly called his captain over for the single. Trusting in the call, Lara took off; just as he reached the point of no return, Samuels bailed out, and Pietersen merely had to walk in and toss the ball onto the stumps.
He had started with a drop-and-run, off Flintoff in the 26th over. He was comprehensively beaten by James Anderson, with the first ball of the 27th - again, typical Lara, moving all the way across his stumps, into the sort of dangerous territory other batsmen steer well clear off. He greeted Flintoff, in the 28th, with a shot that was typically Lara: the ridiculously high back lift, the wrist cock at the top, the bat flashing down to pick a short ball and drive it, on the up and square on the off, leaving the field standing.
That was pretty much the story of the rest of his innings - a walk across the stumps at Flintoff that again brought him into danger zone and elicited oohs and aahs of agony from the crowd; a flicked four off Anderson to fine leg; a dangerous steer off a Flintoff slower ball that teased Andrew Strauss at slip and raced to the fence - and then, 17 deliveries and 18 runs later, the fatal response to an ill-judged call.
Lara is the one batsman who, throughout his career, has walked when he thought he was out - and never felt the need to make statements about it. He walked, here, without a glance at the umpire, without a look at his partner. He shook his head once, he looked to the heavens once and then, when he became aware that the full house, including legendary names from West Indies cricket history, were on their feet cheering, he took off his helmet, saluted the crowd, visibly fought back his emotions and walked through a guard of honor by his mates, up the steps, into the pavilion, and out of our lives.
Pietersen struck one needless sour note, launching into an orgy of celebration and continuing the high-fives even after the rest of his colleagues had stopped celebrating, and clustered in the middle to applaud Lara on his long walk out of international cricket.
Ricky Ponting made the point the other day, that cricket was being taken over by brute force and power, leaving little room for the artists to express themselves in.
Lara, the supreme touch artist of this generation, abdicated the field, defeated not by the opposing bowler but by one of his own, leaving a field he has lit up with his incandescent, almost impossible artistry to the purveyors of brute, muscle-bound mayhem.
Ironically, one such batsman - who, throughout this World Cup, has scratched and prodded around in atypical fashion, for 149 runs in eight visits to the crease - set the stage for Lara's final waltz with an innings that turned the clock back to the Champions' Trophy heroics of 2006.
Chris Gayle came out swinging, as if finally freed of whatever demons had plagued him throughout the course of this tournament. He signaled intent as early as the fourth over, when he played one of those characteristically brutal drives through the line at Liam Plunkett, hoisting the bowler over long on.
A savage pull off Broad, in the 5th over, was followed by a forehand smash over cover. Having warmed up nicely, he then took to Plunkett in the 8th over. The third ball of that over was brutalized through extra cover; the fourth was deliberately chopped over slips for four; the fifth saw the batsman, with no movement of the feet or head or anything else other than the bat, blast the ball over long on; to the last ball, he spread his feet to create a solid hitting base, got under the ball and launched it high over the long on boundary and into the concrete steps.
And then it just got better and better - the 50 came off 29 balls; the 100 of the innings came off 88 balls and included 11 fours and three sixes.
Gayle died as he lived, slashing Flintoff to third man where Broad raced in and dived forward to hold a very good catch (79/58; 131/1).
At the other end, Devon Smith acted on Gayle, and on the West Indies innings, as a brake - unable to take singles and rotate strikes, or to match his partner in torching the bowling. His dismissal, in the 30th over, actually came as a relief. Smith cracked Flintoff square and Collingwood, at backward point, rose in the air, spun to turn his back on the batsman, and caught the ball, as it climbed away from him, with his right hand - an amazing, scarcely credible, catch (61/106; 168/2).
Ramnaresh Sarwan came lower down the order than the norm, partly to accommodate Lara in the higher slot, partly because he was given the responsibility of powering the innings at the death. The batsman who, in earlier outings, has shaped better than his mates let himself down this time, getting an outer edge to a Plunkett delivery that rose and seamed outside off (3/8; 181/4).
Samuels must have been aware of the oppressive atmosphere in the stadium, all directed at him for his role in the Lara dismissal. To his credit, he managed to absorb it all, and opened out in a sudden, furious, astonishing assault. A couple of fours off Broad in the 35th over was by way of teaser; in the 36th, he took to the hapless Plunkett, smacking the first ball of the over high over the bowler's head and into the sightscreen for six, then blasting successive fours through midwicket, twice, and finally through point.
The assault provided momentum to the innings just when it seemed as though the wickets of Lara and Sarwan in quick succession had taken the wind out of Windies' sails. Samuels brought up his 50 off just 37 balls, but fell immediately after when he cracked a Michael Vaughan delivery drifting down leg to midwicket, where Collingwood in the short position held on to the rocket (51/39; 258/5).
Unnoticed, Chanderpaul had been coasting in the Samuels slipstream, racking up the runs at a run a ball without really looking to open out. Once Samuels went, the southpaw, dropped down the order here, took over the onus of run-scoring. He looked in fine nick, before a lazy waft at a Collingwood slower ball found Plunkett at long on (34/39; 276/6).
Dwayne Bravo, like several others in this lineup, has not succeeded in stamping his big-hitting authority on this tournament. Here, he walked out at Vaughan, tried to slog him over the midwicket boundary, managed only to get the toe of the bat on the shot, and lofted it to Dalrymple at that position (13/11; 277/7).
Vaughan then ended a threatening little cameo from Jerome Taylor, getting him to slog-drive against the turn; Dalrymple, again at deep midwicket, being the catcher (12/10; 296/8).
Powell managed to run himself out in the usual last over madness (0/1; 298/9); Ramdhin held his head and pushed the West Indies to the 300 mark before Flintoff completed his second run out of the over to finish the innings on the level 300, with one ball left in the allotted quota.
For Vaughan, there was no silver lining in sight - he opted to bowl first, with a full complement of pace bowlers at his disposal, and was let down by his bowlers. By the 20th over of the innings, Vaughan had tried out 7 bowlers, including himself - and that fact alone tells the tale of the first half of England's final match in this World Cup; add to it this, that despite bowling into the death, Vaughan himself was the best bowler by far in the England ranks.
The West Indies now have the runs - a good 40, 50 more than England, I suspect, hoped to have to chase. The second half will tell us if England has the nerve, and the desire, to "win it for Duncan Fletcher".
10 overs: 65/0 @ 7.22 (Gayle 46/26; Smith 11/29)
20 overs: 116/0 @ 5.80 (Gayle 71/47; Smith 35/74)
30 overs: 173/2 @ 5.58 (Lara 18/17; Samuels 0/1)
40 overs: 250/4 @ 6.25 (Samuels 46/32; Chanderpaul 25/22)
Commentators like Ian Botham, Nasser Hussain and others, close to the structure of English cricket, have been maintaining through the course of this World Cup that coach Duncan Fletcher's excess theorizing has been the weak point in the team's campaign.
They particularly point to England's insistence on batting safe in the early overs, looking to save wickets even if it means no runs are being added to the board.
There could be something to it: England, in this tournament, have gone 28/1 after the first 10 over-power play against South Africa; 30/1 against Bangladesh; 39/2 against Australia; 33/2 against Sri Lanka; 45/2 against Ireland. all the way down to its game against the Kiwis in the Super Eights, where it went 31/2 in ten, and an incredible 70/3 after 20.
It is straight out of the dark ages of one day cricket, when the likes of Mike Brearley and Geoffrey Boycott stodged their way through the initial overs, waiting till the end to get some kind of momentum going.
Perhaps because it is his last outing as coach, or perhaps because the players feel freed of Fletcher's theories, England for once played the early overs the way they were intended to be played: aggressively.
Michael Vaughan in particular came out swinging; seemingly freed of cares, he played with refreshing freedom and out of the blue, unfurled an unsuspected range of shots. He pulled, drove, cut, flicked, all around the wicket with impressive authority and perfect placement.
England had reworked its batting order a bit, dumping Ian Bell and opening with Andrew Strauss as Vaughan's partner. Strauss, though, didn't bat long enough to show whether the move, which works for them in Tests, was a good idea - after having been given considerable trouble by Corey Colleymore's lift early in his innings, the southpaw looked to turn a ball on middle to the leg side, but only managed to pat it to Devon Smith at square leg (7/12; 11/1).
Ravi Bopara, whose run thus far earned him a promotion to number three, proved the perfect foil to the aggressive Vaughan. Bopara was content to turn the strike over - but when the bowler erred in length or line, swift to put it away.
A problem with Vaughan has been his fitness - on the rare occasions when he has played an innings of some size, a variety of cramps and assorted ailments enter into the picture. Here, it manifested as early as the 14th over, when he welcomed Chris Gayle to the bowling crease with a little skip down the line and an effortless loft over the long on boundary, only to limp gingerly back into his crease.
Even on a leg and a half, the freedom of Vaughan's strokeplay remained unfettered; he brought up his 50 off just 33 balls with five fours and two lovely sixes.
Through this period, the West Indies were atrocious in the field - they missed a half dozen run outs in the first 20 overs; and when Vaughan in the 14th over, immediately after getting to his 50, looked to chip over the covers, Marlon Samuels made a mess of his jump, and let the chance slip through his fingers.
And then, with no apparent trigger, the mercurial nature of the Windies surfaced as they turned it around in the field. Brian Lara took the second power play in the 16th over after delaying it till then; what seemed a dodgy move against two very well set batsmen paid off as Bopara forced a delivery square and took off for the run on a Bravo misfield.
The fielder recovered, spun, and slammed the middle stump down at the bowler's end with Bopara well short of his ground (26/43; 101/2).
Lara's best bet was to try and slow things down, and he turned to Gayle to apply the brakes - but for once, the part time spinner was switched off, going for 27 in four before his captain hastily replaced him with Sarwan.
Again, the move worked. Vaughan cut the bowler to backward point and took off for the single, Bravo was lightning fast to the ball, picked up and, still off balance, again scored the direct hit to catch the batsman out of his ground 79/68; 154/3).
As with the Bopara wicket, it was an unfortunate time to lose a wicket - Pietersen was settling in nicely, and with Vaughan playing aggressor had added 53 runs at close to 5 an over, keeping England in touch with the ask. At the 25 over mark, thus, England were 151/2 as against the Windies' 141/1.
Collingwood seemed the perfect man to come in at this point as partner for Pietersen, with his ability to dink and run and keep things ticking over - but Bravo, having performed heroics in the field, took over with the ball and deceived the batsman with a slowish in-cutter; Collingwood tried the cut, but managed only to edge it onto his stumps (6/11; 162/4).
Freddy Flintoff almost smacked a slower ball, first up, to mid off, but managed to keep that out of the hands of the fielder. His innings though was in keeping with his form all through the tournament - and, not for the first time this World Cup, it ended prematurely when he took a casual step forward, to hoist the bowler, in this case Sarwan, to the man stationed at deep long on, here Powell (15/20; 185/5).
When Jamie Dalrymple, brought in to beef up the middle order, cracked a firm on drive straight at Devon Smith and inexplicably took off for a run, for Smith to bang the middle stump out of the ground, the famed England middle order collapse was on full display 1/6; 189/6).
Pietersen, for once, looked to play well within himself, cutting out extravagant hits and accumulating runs through good placement and just the occasional firm hit. When he got to his 50 off 60 balls, there were just 4 boundaries in there - a totally uncharacteristic knock.
With Paul Nixon alone remaining between him and the tail, though, `KP' began opening out a touch more, while Lara seemed content to gift him singles and keep him at the other end.
At the 40 over mark, England needed 88 from the last ten, with four wickets in hand - doable, if Nixon and Pietersen could bat all the way through.
While Nixon bustled about in purposeful fashion, `KP' began upping the ante - in the 42nd over, a clever stroke (he came onto the front foot shaping to drive, then changed his mind, opened his bat face and ran Taylor down to the third man fence) so rattled the bowler that he pitched the next one on middle and leg, and got flicked to fine leg for four more. The two brought up the 50 of the partnership off 43 balls - an association that arrested the familiar England slump, and put England right back in the frame.
Nixon played his part to perfection - there were almost no dot balls for him during this period, as the left hander focused on nudging the ball away for a single each time, to revert strike back to KP.
The 45th over produced one of those odd moments. Gayle, into the attack, went around the wicket with the field set for the reverse sweep and Nixon immediately obliged - just managing to land the ball short of Sarwan, at a short third man. To the next ball, Pietersen had such a wild swing, the keeper was forced to duck for cover, and the ball beat everything down to third man for four byes.
At the 45 over mark, it was all dead even, neither side had broken the game open yet. England needed 47 from the last 30; the West Indies needed four wickets.
The pressure got to everyone. In the 46th over, Nixon cracked one to mid on, started on the run, paused, saw that Pietersen was committed, started running again - while Gayle fumbled, finally got hold of the ball, thought of throwing to the bowler's end to get Nixon, then got ambitious and went for the other end to try and take KP out, and eventually, allowed both batsmen to recover their ground. Next ball, Pietersen cracked the four; the ball after that, he hit it to Lara, ran, and the fielder missed by the proverbial coat of paint with the batsman well out.
The game finally broke in the 47th, first one way, then the other. Pietersen took the first ball of Jerome Taylor's over, a perfectly good one on length, and smashed it high over the long on boundary - to bring up his 5th ODI century off 90 deliveries (10 fours, and the one six).
They called for a replacement ball; Taylor gathered his wits during the interim. Ball two was the late swinging yorker; Pietersen tried for a repeat, swung all over it, and was bowled leg stump (100/91; 269/7). The Pietersen jinx loomed - he was never yet hit a century in a winning cause; as he walked off, England was looking for 32 off 22.
Taylor then produced a well-disguised slower ball; Liam Plunkett, reputed to be a big hitter at the death, hit - but only big enough to find the Bravo at deep long on (2/3; 271/8).
A match of many twists then took one more turn - this, the decisive one. Nixon has already shown off his combative tendencies once before this Cup; here, he took on the onus, swatting Colleymore for four over midwicket first up in the 48th; a ball later, he repeated the shot, hitting it even better to split the difference between long on and midwicket.
Lara tried to slow things down, taking his time over adjusting the field, talking to Colleymore, giving him time to settle down. Didn't work - Nixon came dancing down, and picked out the exact same spot, for the third four in four balls, reducing the ask to 17 off 14.
Colleymore banged one down; it beat the advancing Nixon, but it also beat the keeper, and went through for four byes.
It was a brilliant counter-attack, and it brought the ask down to 12 off the last two overs.
Taylor gave Nixon one off the first ball of the 49th, and that put Stuart Broad, all of 20 years with 5 ODI innings, and 9 runs, as the sum of his experience. Broad had enough savvy to nurdle a single; Nixon walked across his stumps, picked the ball from off and middle and flicked past short fine for the four that, for the first time, brought the equation down in England's favor (6 off 9).
And then, improbably, yet another twist. Lara gave Bravo the ball; Bravo gave Broad the single and, with his second ball, produced the famed slower ball that went through Nixon's attempt to slog onto the on side, and took out off stump.
3 needed from 4 and James Anderson, yet to open his account in this World Cup, to get them. A leg bye made that 2/3; a dot ball had both English and Windies fans cheering - the former because Broad hadn't got out; the latter because it was now 2/2; and then Broad made his ICC match referee dad Chris proud, stepping into the penultimate ball of the match, and lofting it over the infield for the two that got England a win by one wicket.
In one last, sad twist, it was Lara who had to run halfway to the midwicket boundary to retrieve the ball.
For England, finally, a hard fought win, in which, at least with the bat, the side played like a unit. And with the win, a number five placing in the Super Eights, pushing the hosts down to six.
For a moment, the crowd cheered the win - and then, to a man, English fans, West Indians, neutrals, all stood to Lara, several with tears streaming down their faces.
He did not get to go out on a win - perhaps that would have been too much of a fairytale.
10 overs: 58/1 @ 5.80 (Vaughan 33/24; Bopara 11/24)
20 overs: 122/2 @ 6.60 (Vaughan 62/48; Pietersen 15/17)
30 overs: 163/4 @ 5.43 (Pietersen 31/44; Flintoff 1/2)
40 overs: 213/6 @ 5.32 (Pietersen 62/70; Nixon 4/10)
The Cup: The Complete Coverage
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