Modern Test batsmen talk long and hard about â€˜playing for the ladsâ€™, 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 wouldnâ€™t ever wish misfortune on their team-mates, the very best Test innings usually demand that most of the â€˜ladsâ€™ 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, â€œif Iâ€™m out, thatâ€™s itâ€. Laxman and Dravid against the Aussies at Eden Park in 2001 was a great example of one more wicket and itâ€™s over; as was Athersâ€™ 185 at Joâ€™burg in 1996; or even Mahela Jayawardeneâ€™s hundred at Lordsâ€™ last year. The problem with being an Aussie batsman is that there is usually at least one other who makes runs too, but Pontingâ€™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 Laraâ€™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 hasnâ€™t done it yet! But could anyone begrudge the West Indies this moment?