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Archive for May, 2011

When you are 40/5 chasing 350, it’s OK.  You were probably going to lose anyway.

When you are 40/5 chasing 110, it’s horrible.  You should not be losing.  At 40/5, you should probably still be OK.  But you know you won’t. 

 A quiet washes over the whole team, fuelled by the feeling that ice-cold water is suddenly coursing through your veins.  All of a sudden, you forget how the hell it was you scored that hundred a couple of weeks ago.  The gap between each fielder seems too small to fit the ball through. 

After finding the fielder for 3 overs, there is only one option – go over the top.  And that is where it all falls down.  Try to defend, and you are caught behind.  Try to attack, and the ball goes straight up in the air. 

You are a deep-sea diver, and someone has cut your air line. 

As an England fan, yesterday was a wonderful day, possibly the day when England went from being “decent” to “bloody hell….”.  I enjoyed it immensely.  But as a cricket fan and player, every time I saw that Sri Lankan dressing room something in my stomach lurched a little. 

We have all been there.

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A medium paced wobbler that transformed into an off spinner when he couldn’t be arsed to run up in later life will always earn great respect from any seasoned cricketer.  But twin that with a batting style that looked like Babe Ruth crossed with a particularly violent lumberjack, and you have the stuff of legend.

Astonishingly, Lance Klusener began his first class career as a slippery fast bowler who batted at number 11.  By 1996 he was in the South African one day side, and was drafted into the Test squad for the tour of India later that year.  Having been boshed aroundCalcuttaon Test debut in the first innings, he then responded with a career best 8/64 in the second innings.  He will never be remembered for his bowling or his Test match performances though.

In one day cricket Klusener was an absolute beast.  His bowling may have drifted more and more into the Chris Harris category as his career wore on, but that mattered little.  Over 171 internationals, “Zulu” averaged more than 40 with the bat at a strike rate of near-on 90 and less than 30 with the ball at an economy of 4.7.  Of course, it was for the 1999 World Cup that he will be remembered.  Firstly, for his utter disdain for anyone clutching a white ball in the latter stages of the innings.  Averaging a scarcely credible 134 at considerably better than a run a ball, he also found time to chip in with 14 wickets at 20. 

He even managed to save his best for the Australians, slamming a violent 36 off of 21 balls in the super 6’s.  He wouldn’t have had to play them again had Herschelle Gibbs not thrown the ball on the floor to reprieve Steve Waugh later in the game, but in the resultant semi final he was even better.  Already on 23 from 12 balls, he was left to score 9 off of the last over with only Allan Donald for company, and promptly slapped two fours off of the first two balls.  Of course, what came next was to become the second reason the 1999 World Cup is synonymous with Lance Klusener….

His career coughed and spluttered from then on, but the legend had been made.  T20 came just too late for him, which in itself is a tragedy.  But for one tournament at least, there was no more thrilling or destructive sight than Lance Klusener in full flow.

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Date: 10th July 1976

Venue: Old Trafford,Manchester, 3rd Test match

Backstory: Faced with one of the most formidable pace attacks in Test history,England recall 45-year old Brian Close. England gain credible draws in the first two Tests, but the gulf between the sides opens up at Old Trafford as England crumble to 72 all out in the first dig, then are left to “chase” 552 to win.

The Story: With a cracked, variable track, Close and Edrich have 80 minutes to play out until the end of Day 3.  The West Indies attack have a point to prove after being kept at bay for so long in the series.  As the light closes in Holding, in every sense of the word, goes for the jugular.  It is enough to give Andy McNab 

What follows is trademark Close.  He ducks and swerves at the last possible moment from a barrage a short-pitched bowling.  When the ball does strike him, it is met with his typical Yorkshire glare – and nothing else.  No grimacing, no worried looks an above all else no fear, Close could be behind a desk pondering his latest businees lunch.  It is a red rag to the seething Holding.

England, of course, lose heavily, but only after a defiant 108-ball 20 from Close and an equally impressive 24 from Edrich see them well into the 4th Day.  Holding goes so far with his attack that he is warned, and even his captain admits that he went too far.

That innings proves to be the last for Close in England colours.  It is unlikely he would have wanted to go out any other way than with a cluster of bruises and an angry fast bowler cursing his name.

Quote – “”Our fellows got carried away. They knew they had only eighty minutes that night to make an impression and they went flat-out, sacrificing accuracy for speed. They knew afterwards they had bowled badly.” – Clive Lloyd.

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Some players are natural greats.  Others are greats, but everyone forgets because they have another defining feature.  Of these, a fair proportion bring it on themselves.  It pains me to think that Gary Lineker will be known as “that bloke of the crisp advert” to most people under the age of 18.  It sometimes needs to be remembered just how good these players were.

Inzamam was a wonderful batsman, a player able to bully the opposition as easily as he would grind them down.  Despite that, he will forever be the man to prove that an athlete need not have any semblance of physical fitness.  For that, I love him.

Watching Inzy bat compared to watching him do everything else was incredible.  His footwork, so slow and cumbersome while in the field or trying to grab a non-existent single, would suddenly transform to silky smooth when faced with any poor spinner unlucky enough to stand in his way.  His biggest innings came against New Zealandin 2002 when he thumped a vicious 329 at Lahore.  By the end of it he could barely stand up, let alone run, but did that stop him?  Did it hell.  He simply moved into stand and deliver mode and belted the ball through the covers and over long on.

Of course, the running and the fielding were a joy to behold.  Then there was the inventive way he managed to get out at times.  I have seen him run out without actually running at all.  He has also been out obstructing the field, falling on his stumps and jumping over the ball to be run out (unfairly admittedly).  The class clown element just added to his cult, especially because of his expressionless, hang-dog trudge to the pavilion afterwards.

But it sometimesdetracts from him, and it really shouldn’t.  Type Inzamam into YouTube and you have to search a good way down to find one that isn’t there for the laughs.  It’s easy to forget that when he was in the zone, he was so, SO good.  Inzy was at his absolute best when the pressure was ramped up purely because he let nothing faze him. 

Two innings in heart-pumping one wickets victories bookmark his career.  In 1994, the young Pakistani batting down at 8 in the order somehow won the unwinnable against Australia.  With Pakistan down and out, he put on 57 with Mushtaq for the last wicket to end up 58*.  Then, 9 years later, Inzamam the captain made an unbeaten 138 against Bangladesh to spare the blushes of a nation and drag his team over the line once again.  All done with the expression of a man who had been disrupted from reading the paper.

The lasting image of Inzamam came in 2006.  While all around him fell in a swirl of ball tampering rumours, he remained in the centre of it all, impassive and stony-faced. And there it was – a man of Zen-like calmness, impervious to any situation that was thrown at him.  While his country lurched from crisis to crisis on an almost monthly basis, Inzamam stood as a hero both in Pakistan and around the world for good reason.  And it certainly isn’t just because he has got a bit of a belly and a quite brilliant beard.

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