Wednesday, March 11, 2009

WI are back!!!!

Caribbean summer might not have been this good in recent times!!!

A four match series, an extra test made to fit in to compensate the cancellation of another test, gripping fight for the series till the second last ball of the series, and absolute battle for 19 days!!!!

First match, at Kingston, Jamaica. The Sabina Park was in for a big surprise. England had decent practice matches coming into the series (except the onslaught by Lendl Simmons). A not so great first innings score by Eng, majorly powered by KP's near-century was not enough to contain WI. Skipper, Gayle and Sarwan scored centuries to take WI to a small lead of 70 plus, early on day 4. Til, this point, one would give credit to the centurions, and to Big-Benn. But, now, evolves the new hero. Never seen WI bowling be so snaring since the departure of the deadly Walsh-Ambrose duo. At one end, on this day, Jerome Taylore was RIPPING England top order apart, while at the other end, Benn was ready to not let the grip off. Wickets tumbled faster than dominos. Eng were 26-7, and after a small period of revival (during this time, the picture had sunk into everybody), the tail was mopped up. Taylor read 9-4-11-5 in two spells, and Benn had 4 wickets again as WI skittled Eng for a paltry 51!!! Innings defeat. Could anyone have imagined that??? NOPE!!!! Surprise it sure was! By the time the news about WI rampage spread and crowd came to fill in, it was all over... They only got to photograph their stars...

So, a week off, and it was time for business again...
Antigua! Sir Viv Richards Stadium. Start....ten balls... Stop! Bad sandy outfield due to a recent storm rendered the ground unfit to be played on... So, the match was shifted to ARC, and so came the fifth match of the series, out of emergency.

So, two days after the havoc, the third match, starts at the ARC... England pile runs big runs... Almost everyone contributes, Strauss and Collingwood notch up centuries. Swann helps England restrict WI to a score less than 300, though Sarwan battled hard for his 94. Quick 22 in the second innings by Eng saw the declaration coming in an hour before tea on day 4, and England posted a target of 500+. Improbable, yes, but important to see how WI survives the test of time... England were looking to come back into the series. The fourth day ends at a nervous 143/3, Shiv and Sarwan at the center... Last day, England kept coming at the WI. The two veterans kept the WI wagon going till lunch. It was all about patience. Just before tea, WI lost the plot and both Sarwan and Shiv fell in quick succession! Tension built up. Eng kept picking up wickets... Last wicket pair, Powell and Edwards dramatically negotiated 66 balls to deny England victory. The draw was a moral victory for the Windies! So much drama!!!

Barbados, next, Kensington Oval. Picturesque backdrop, but England needed to craft something better than that on the pitch to etch its name on the tour map. Irritated captain, Strauss, won the toss and batted, and batted and batted and batted to pile up 600 runs. Strauss and Ravi with centuries, Collingwood and Cook, failing to cross the 100 mark. So, can the English side finally get its victory? No, said Sarwan! Whose near triple century took the game away from the English camp. Along with able century from 'keeper and Vice-Captain Ramdin, WI piled 749 and declared, with a wicket left, as if to impose superiority! Another draw. Another match fought off by WI.

Fifth one, Queen's Park Oval, Port of Spain, Trinidad. We are in for a ripper!

Same story with the toss and the first innings heap of runs. WI came up with an equally good run fest and the new face WI middle order batsman, Nash notched up his first century, stylish one, while Shiv plundered runs at will. End of day four, England are 82 runs ahead, three wickets down, and need to do something fast to get a result out of this. They need to post a target, neither too high for WI to give up the chase, nor too low to gift it to the WI... Plus, they have to first score those runs. So, there go KP and Prior on a leather hunt! Defencive field set didn't help Gayle much as England plundered at more than run a ball to set WI a target of 240 runs. The WI chase had to be careful, as first innings centurion opener, Gayle was injured and wouldn't bat until it is a 3rd degree emergency. Simmons and Smith opened. it was all looking good till Simmons fell to Jimmy, edging one to slip, trying to play across the line, and what a catch it was to get him! Wickets kept falling and WI were 3 down by tea! Some 35 overs to negotiate, and Swann was ferocious with the ball. Shiv, Nash and Hinds left soon and England was counting its chances at getting one hand at the trophy. Gayle came in to battle it out, with Ramdin. The two stayed there... Just stayed there. Throw anything at them, they won't even flinch! When was the last time you saw Gayle scoring 4 from 42 (when he ultimately fell to the over-emotional Monty, leaving 9 overs at stake)??? Powell gave Ramdin company for 6 overs. It was just a matter of twenty balls...three Last over, Monty chosen over Swann (!?!?!?!??!?). And, Edwards was ever so calm... Two balls left. Edwards nudges this one to the leg side. WI dressing room is chaotic! Their first series win in 5 years!!! Strauss saw all this and called it a game...

What a finish to the game, err, to the series!!!

New-dad, Prior was man of the match for fighting innings (twice) and man of the series was the run machine Sarwan, who I think amassed more than 800 runs, I'm not sure...

Its ODI series up next :)

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