Posted by: tootingtrumpet | December 27, 2017

Cricket 2017 – Three Favourite Moments

The three moments below are not necessarily the best in cricket this year past – for any England fan, even a list of one would include the extraordinary day at Lord’s when the home side won the World Cup on heartstopping circumstances – but these are my three favourite moments from the cricket I was privileged to see in 2017.

Matt Renshaw and David Warner walk to the crease in Dharamsala

Four day Tests? Day/Night Tests? Tests played at the convenience of boards more interested in plotting World Cup success? At 140 years of age, Test cricket should be treated with a little more respect, because when it’s good, it’s so very, very good indeed.

What a series we had enjoyed in India! On a turning wicket in Pune, young Matt Renshaw had dug in and made 68 at the top of the order in as old-fashioned a manner as one could imagine, before surprise selection, spinner Steve O’Keefe, ran through the Indian lower order after Mitchell Starc had sent back the prolific Che Pujara and the over-confident Virat Kohli. Cue Steven Smith’s masterful century and a second O’Keefe 6-35 to send the Australians one up and rock the Indians in their own backyard.

All bar the tyro opener, KL Rahul, were still shaking in Bangalore, where he was ninth out for 90, and was obliged to take guard in the second innings facing a deficit of 87 in a low scoring match, It was Pujara’s turn to guts it out this time and his 92 anchored the hosts’ innings, but a target of 188 looked gettable, if not quite a shoo-in. Though Ravindra Jadeja had recovered his familiar swagger with his six-fer in the first innings, it proved Ravichandran Ashwin’s turn to get on top and stay on top, as his six wickets got India home by 75.

After a high-scoring draw in Ranchi, the players headed for the Himalayas and the tension heightened. David Warner, to his credit, had worked out a method to score and registered his first fifty of the series and Steven Smith silenced any remaining doubters of his genius with a brilliant century under pressure. Without their injured captain, India were rocking, six down and still 79 in arrears, when Jadeja decided to twirl his moustache one more time and blast his way to the innings top score in two exhilarating hours of high wire cricket.

India’s lead was 32 halfway through the deciding Test, as Renshaw and Warner walked to the crease…

Moeen Ali takes a hat-trick

England’s all-rounder possesses a fragile beauty, not just in his high risk strokemaking that has much of everything that made David Gower so compelling (and infuriating) a figure at the crease, but also in his ripped but unpredictable, drifting, sidespun off breaks. Lithe of physique, the Brummie has a feline mien to his movements and something of a cat’s inscrutable face in repose. One might add the metaphor the fact that  his feast or famine approach with bat and ball, needs a full complement of nine lives to survive the rigours of Test cricket’s merciless examination.

Moeen is a serious man, his responsibilities as one of the most high profile Muslims in the country accepted with a quiet dignity. Of course, he shouldn’t have such “responsibilities” at all, but he is not a man to complain about anything, on or off the field, and consistently pulls off that most tricky of gigs – pride without arrogance – all day every day with admirable aplomb.

The mask slipped for a moment in The Oval’s 100th Test match, as England cruised to a win that would take the series to 2-1 with one to play. Having finished his previous over with the wickets of the centurion Dean Elgar and Kagiso Rabada, Moeen’s first ball of his 17th over struck Morne Morkel on the pad and 11 England players and 20,000 England fans appealed with full-throated confidence – but umpire, Joel Wilson, was unmoved. Upstairs it went, the ground buzzing with anticipation and then… The cricket photograph of the year was evidence enough of The Oval’s first Test hat-trick at the 100th time of asking.

Shai Hope confounds the doubters

A callow West Indies team had been blown away by a plainly superior England in the First Test (and would be again in the Third Test) but in-between, we witnessed a performance as great as it was unexpected. Shai Hope, hitherto styled “No Hope” by me and plenty like me, had previously given a glimpse or two of his potential, but looked ill-suited to the formidable demands of Test cricket, never mind its September-in-England version. But England had looked a little complacent in making 258 in the first innings at Headingley with only centurion Ben Stokes and Joe Root making more than 23.

That still looked like plenty enough when Hope walked past his brother Kyle on the boundary, dismissed with the board showing 35-3. But Kraigg Brathwaite was giving nothing away en route to 134 and Hope began to show why so many judges in the Caribbean rated him, with a magnificent 147.

Their 246 runs partnership did not just drag the Windies back into the match and series, it woke England up, and six half-centuries later, Moeen’s tattoo beaten out on the boundary boards, allowed Joe Root to declare 321 ahead with half an hour to play on Day Four.

I spent Day Five telling listeners to Guerilla Cricket that there was no way the visitors could do a Lord’s 1984 – sure the kid played well in the first innings, but he’s no Gordon Greenidge, even if Kraigg Brathwaite was doing a decent job of channeling Larry Gomes batting in a mirror.

Others thought otherwise – and so did Shai Hope himself, who, with an almost Zen-like calm, constructed his second century of the match, striking the winning runs to seal the win and complete one of the greatest individual Test batting performances of all time – 147 and 118* made in over 11 hours of relentless pressure with superhuman concentration. The moment of victory stands with any in his region’s glorious history and reminded us – as if we needed it – that the more one thinks about this wondrous game of ours, the less one knows.



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