Cricket needs a strong West Indies like a fish needs water, and tonight we saw signs of a West Indies resurgence.
The West Indies have a proud tradition of great performances at Lord’s, including winning the first two World Cup finals there. Batting first, the West Indies batsmen recalled the dominance of a bygone era, posting a challenging score of 199. What was interesting to note was the dominant role being played by spin bowling in white ball cricket, which is a good thing as it shows the art and craft of the bowlers, and this is good for the traditionalists as well as being a great way for the new generation of cricket fans to build a deeper appreciation for what the sport has to offer.
The match atmosphere was somewhat relaxed – almost Sunday afternoon carnival cricket – which was probably to be expected on the back of a draining, high-tension IPL season that came to conclusion less than a week ago. The players displayed great spirit and camaraderie, with former England skipper Nasser Hussain getting in on the action by roaming around the field with a microphone and headcam, beaming video footage and off the cuff interviews with the players back to the commentary booth.
Despite the spirit of bonhomie and a lack of overt aggression, the players were nonetheless eager to perform on such a high profile stage. Batting first, the West Indies got off to a flyer, racing to 75 at 10 to the over before Evin Lewis was trapped leg before by IPL wonderman Rashid Khan. Lewis had dominated the scoring as fellow opener Chris Gayle struggled to find the middle of the bat (or sometimes the bat at all!). Lewis’ 58 came of just 26 balls (S/R 223.07), with five fours and five sixes, in an incredible display of power and precision hitting.
The middle-order played its part to a tee, with Marlon Samuels (43 off 22 balls, two fours, four sixes, S/R 195.45), Denesh Ramdin (44 not out off 25 balls, three fours, three sixes, S/R 176.00) and Andre Russell (21 not out off 10 balls, three sixes, S/R 210.00) seeing their side through to the close with a run rate of 9.95.
After a miserly display with the ball during the IPL, Khan’s four overs were more expensive than normal at 12 to the over (two fours, five sixes!), but he proved his skill once again by snapping up two key wickets.
The World XI started poorly and never recovered, their top five scraped together just 18 runs in total with Russell and the broad-smiling Samuel Badree each picking up two wickets.
Shahid Afridi holed out to midwicket stretching himself too far in search of a six, and the World XI skipper departed to rapturous applause as he made his exit from the international arena after a sombre 11 off 12 balls ― hampered by a leg injury which ended off an amazing international career
Possibly the best moment of the innings belonged to Kesrick Williams, who caught and bowled Thisara Perera off a massive, steepling mishit drive over the top. Williams had to race almost 20 yards and dive full stretch to hold a catch that would have been a tough ask for most fielders standing below the ball in perfect daylight. Perera had top-scored with 61 off 37 balls and had given the neutrals – even if for just a moment – hopes of a grandstand finish. Williams’ 3.4 overs went for 42 runs but earned him three wickets as the World XI crumbled to 127 all out.
For the West Indies, winning by 72 runs seems like old times, if only for a moment, and their performance has given us hope that, just maybe, we might see a resurgence of West Indies cricket sometime soon.
West Indies captain Carlos Brathwaite said after the game: ‘Massive thank you to everyone who came, and Shahid and the World XI boys for taking the time to come. Hopefully, we’ve raised some money to benefit people back home and help the infrastructure. People have been struggling, but this good feeling will spread throughout the Caribbean. Hopefully, we can get the electricity back on and make people feel better.’
For his part, Afridi stepped up to the plate by announcing a $20,000 donation to the relief fund from his own foundation ― a generous gesture from a true sporting champion.
Donations to help Hurricane Relief will be much appreciated by the cricketing community and can be made through #CricketRelief here.
Photo: James Chance/Getty Images