Do it, Shiv


© Getty Images
Modern Test batsmen talk long and hard about ‘playing for the lads’, belittling their own efforts as part of a team collective, which is all very commendable and, of course, a load of old baloney. The best batsmen are selfish and will, more often than not, bat for themselves, which is fair enough. And while they wouldn’t ever wish misfortune on their team-mates, the very best Test innings usually demand that most of the ‘lads’ get out cheaply, while our hero achieves team glory almost single-handedly.

With this in mind, I was trying to think this morning of the best innings in recent memory, where the successful batsman must have stood at the crease during his knock in the second innings thinking, “if I’m out, that’s it”. Laxman and Dravid against the Aussies at Eden Park in 2001 was a great example of one more wicket and it’s over; as was Athers’ 185 at Jo’burg in 1996; or even Mahela Jayawardene’s hundred at Lords’ last year. The problem with being an Aussie batsman is that there is usually at least one other who makes runs too, but Ponting’s rear-guard 156 at Old Trafford in 2005 stands out. I am sure there are many others, not least by Adam Gilchrist, although did they ever avert certain defeat?

My favourite for sheer excitement was Lara’s unbeaten 153 to beat the Aussies at Bridgetown in 1999. If Shiv Chanderpaul goes on to score 160 to win today, will that be even better? Agreed, Harmison and Plunkett are not McGrath, Gillespie and Warne. And there won’t be the same swash-buckling bravado. Besides, he hasn’t done it yet! But could anyone begrudge the West Indies this moment?

Celebrity commentators: Tony Benn

A fruity voice, outspoken, opinionated – and best of all, easily impersonated. Imagine how entertaining the rain intervals would become.

Previously, Jools Holland

Slow but steady wins the race

Neither of the last two Tests has provided the kind of intrigue or tension to really kick-start this summer’s cricket. At least, such as it may be called summer when hail stops play. While the crowds may rue the decline of a once great Test nation, however, the England selectors have some cause to smile.

Kevin Pietersen may have sneaked the Man-of-the-Match award with his maiden international double hundred, but Headingley was Ryan Sidebottom’s Test. After the Durham pair of Plunkett and Harmison had comprehensively failed to look threatening at Lord’s, or even manage to find both line and length with any frequency, the prospect of a return for the equally unpredictable Anderson or Mahmood was not one of eager anticipation. Sidebottom’s selection, whilst somewhat left-field and seen by some as a backwards step, certainly served purpose. His experience and discipline was priceless to an attack whose two frontline ‘strike men’ seemed as unsure as the opposition batsmen as to where each of their deliveries was going to pitch. Michael Vaughan possibly summed it up the Aesopian predicament most accurately:

“If you’ve got someone bowling 90mph in the right area, it’s fantastic, but pace bowled on either side of the wicket is something that’s quite nice to face.”

Sidebottom, like Prior, had not had the most successful start to the cricketing calendar. Handed his second Test cap, he took his best haul in all competitions this season in the first innings, with his second innings figures costing a mere two runs extra. Prior’s two first-innings outings have both been far in excess of any of his scores for Sussex this year. Is Moores simply blessed with good fortune in his early selections, or does he have Fletcher’s Midas touch for the international performer? It is surely too soon to tell; but for the moment it seems likely that Nottinghamshire will have to wait a little longer to regain their curly-haired left-arm seamer.

Not all of the selection decisions have paid off. While Graveney et al cannot take blame for Harmison’s curious lack of consistency, Plunkett’s rather robotic action accounts for much of the troubles that went unhidden by his flattering figures at Headingley. Sidebottom has just highlighted the quality that can be found and developed in the county system that Duncan Fletcher had come to distrust. Unless Donald is able to make a swift and significant impact, a return to Durham for the young man may be the best way to improve his game.