Lara treated to epic farewell match (West Indies v England, Super Eights, Barbados) -
04-22-2007, 10:33 AM
The Bulletin by Andrew McGlashan
April 21, 2007
England 301 for 9 (Pietersen 100, Vaughan 79, Nixon 38) beat West Indies 300 (Gayle 79, Smith 61, Samuels 51, Vaughan 3-39) by one wicket
A full house at the Kensington Oval turned up for Brian Lara's farewell to international cricket but, although it was a low-key farewell with the bat, they were treated to one of the best matches of the World Cup as England completed a thrilling one-wicket win with one ball to spare. Kevin Pietersen's second World Cup century carried England to within touching distance and the ageless Paul Nixon reduced the requirement to four off the final over. Nixon was bowled by Dwayne Bravo but Stuart Broad held his nerve
When Pietersen was joined by Nixon, England needed a tough 112 in 14 overs but the pair added 80 in 63 balls. Pietersen went to his fourth ODI ton with a huge six over midwicket off Jerome Taylor only to miss an attempted repeat next ball and lose his leg stump. Nixon, who came so close to carrying England home against Sri Lanka, took the momentum forward and his three boundaries off the 48th over left England needing a run-a-ball for the final two.
When Nixon was confounded by Bravo's excellent slower deliveries it was down to Broad and Jimmy Anderson to find three from four balls. Off the penultimate delivery Lara, in his final gesture as an international player, brought the field in and Broad, at the opposite end of his career, scythed over cover.
It had taken six weeks but finally there was a sell-out and the crowd were treated to the match they deserved. They'd been whipped up into a frenzy by Chris Gayle's 58-ball 79 so by the time Lara walked in, through a guard of honour from the England players, they were in the mood for something special.
A scorching square-drive and a deft leg glance hinted at one final onslaught, but Marlon Samuels wasn't reading the same script. Pushing the ball towards mid-on he set off for a run, only to change his mind and leave Lara stranded by Pietersen's direct hit. As he left the field, to another standing ovation and handshakes from his team-mates, his ODI figures read 10,405 runs at 40.48 from 299 matches.
Although he couldn't sign off with a major innings, Lara at least appeared set to end with a victory when England fell away to 189 for 6. But Pietersen was ticking and he timed his charge to perfection, expertly picking out the required boundaries. Third man was a profitable area, but he also threaded the needle on both sides of the pitch.
West Indies' fielding was the ultimate mixed bag. Three direct-hit run outs, two from the ebullient Bravo, were outstanding but the number of fumbles and general laziness elsewhere was staggering. Gayle had the chance to remove either Pietersen or Nixon in the 46th over yet made a complete mess of it as both batsmen were stranded mid-pitch. With the first ball of the next over Pietersen reached his century off 90 balls but his wicket, followed quickly by Liam Plunkett, put West Indies back in control until Nixon's heroics.
For the first half of England's run chase it appeared that the captain's innings everyone had hoped for from Lara would actually come from Michael Vaughan's bat. Hopelessly out of form throughout the tournament he finally kicked on and almost matched Gayle with a 33-ball fifty. One shot, off Taylor, was vintage Vaughan as he launched a pull into the stands at square leg. Another six followed as he danced down the pitch to Gayle and his first ODI fifty for 14 matches was completed with a flick to fine leg.
With Bopara, who was promoted to No. 3, Vaughan added 90 for the second wicket until both were beaten by Bravo's laser-guided arm as West Indies reasserted their hold. Bravo was having an irresistible period, bowling Paul Collingwood off the inside edge, and when Andrew Flintoff tamely lobbed to long on the innings was dribbling away. But England have a habit off pulling off the unexpected and, in many ways, it was a fitting finish to Duncan Fletcher's time as coach.
In the final outcome, West Indies' late collapse of six for 42 during the last 10 overs allowed England back into a match which had been rushed away from them by Gayle, who finally found his touch. After 16 overs Vaughan had used seven bowlers as the opening stand reached 131 with Devon Smith contributing a more sedate fifty. Collingwood's breathtaking salmon-like leap to remove Smith was a moment of brilliance, but Samuels partially atoned for his party-pooping role with a flamboyant 39-ball 51, taking 24 off Plunkett's seventh over. Vaughan's offspin was the surprise package in pulling back West Indies and, importantly, England's fielding standards remained high.
But while Vaughan ended as the winning captain the day was still all about Lara. At the final presentation he asked "did I entertain?" The resounding cheers from the crowd, most of who stayed on after the finish, pretty much said it all.