England 243 (48.4 overs) beat West Indies 225 (44.4 overs) by 18 runs
In what was perhaps the most surreal game of cricket since Merv Hughes took up dog wrestling in the middle of a test match, England sneaked past the West Indies this afternoon and kept alive their hopes of qualifying for the World Cup quarter finals.
Strange forces were at work from the off in Chennai today. It all started when the two teams were announced. First of all, the Windies thought it would be a good idea to leave out Shiv Chanderpaul, who most observers (including us) consider to be their best batsman. The logic? I’ll have to get back to you on that one.
Then came news of the England team – Anderson was dropped, despite the fact that Chennai was the scene of his match winning spell against South Africa, and Tremlett was handed his first start. No pressure then, Chris.
However, shockwaves really rippled across Asia when cricket fans noticed the names ‘Wright’ and ‘Tredwell’ on the England team sheet. Millions of Indians turned to one anyone in disbelief and said ‘who’?
England won the toss and batted first – no surprises there – but then the commentators informed us that Darren Sammy has lost the toss in all five of the West Indies games. What are the odds on that?! 32-1 I suppose, but you get my point.
The sequence of unlikely occurrences continued when Jonathan Trott arrived at the crease. Spectators usually take a nap when they see Trott strolling to the wicket. However, anybody who took forty winks today would have missed his entire innings.
The Warwickshire batsman hit three beautiful boundaries in his first six balls, raced to 47 off 38 deliveries, and then got out playing a stupid shot against the spin. Anybody would have thought he’d turned into Kevin Pietersen.
The only predictable phase of the game then began. Having reached a promising 121-2, England collapsed to 151-6. However, in what was a major surprise, and surely the result of mystical forces, we somehow managed to claw our way up to 243. That Wright bloke got the ball rolling with a useful knock of 44. Where has he been?!
England’s total of 243 looked about twenty too few, but hopes were high that the surface might deteriorate like it did against South Africa. Unfortunately, that optimism seemed misplaced when Chris Gayle – the man who finds test cricket a drag – hit 43 off 21 balls. The Full Toss cannot confirm rumours that Gayle likes to get his runs quickly because he can’t be bothered to bat any longer.
After five overs of the Windies reply, the situation looked bleak. However, the match was turned on its head by the world’s most unlikely professional sportsman. James Tredwell, who by all reports is a professional tea maker from Kent, took three quick wickets – including that of Gayle. He claimed four in total.
However, the West Indies’ demise was hastened by the same cosmic forces that enabled England to scrape a competitive total. For some unknown reason – voices in Otis Gibson’s head perhaps – the Windies decided to play silly buggers with their batting line-up.
Darren Sammy promoted himself to number three, the wicketkeeper Devon Thomas came in at five (despite the fact that his high score is a miserable 29), and Ramnaresh Sarwan, their best player bar Chanderpaul, found himself down at six. At least he made the team I suppose.
Although surprise tactics can sometimes work, the Windies strategy seemed bizarre. It’s all very well trying to unsettle opponent’s plans, but why did they assume that we actually had any? Those of us who watch England regularly suspect we just turn up and play it by ear … or at least that’s how it seemed against Ireland and Bangladesh.
Perhaps the Windies management were confused by the sight of Ravi Bopara actually getting a bowl. He took two handy wickets too – thus vindicating those of us who think his bowling might be effective on slow pitches. Meanwhile, Chris Tremlett, who looked so good in the Ashes, was flayed around the park. Strange days.
However, it wouldn’t have been England without a few anxious moments. The Windies seemed to have the game in the bag at 222-6. Things just weren’t going our way. Trott took a great catch in the outfield, only for the third umpire to rule that his sleeve had gently brushed the boundary rope. Two overs, later Sulieman Benn looked plum LBW, only for the replays to show that the ball was a millimetre too high.
However, as I said earlier, this was a strange game of cricket. Just as the Windies looked to have it in the bag, they collapsed like err, England often do. Graeme Swann was the hero, with 3-36 under extreme pressure. But don’t forget those mystic forces that came to England’s aid. For the first time in a long time, somebody up there likes us.