Oct/Nov 2006: Gayle & Yousuf
06 Dec 2006
By: Sean Fuller
October 2006 offered a rare moment when the focus of the entire cricket world was centred on one place. The Champions Trophy might not be as celebrated as the World Cup or as prestigious as the Ashes, and the usual chorus of ex-players and pundits questioned the point of having the tournament at all before it began, but this year it did provide some entertaining contests on some sporting wickets. The title eventually falling to Australia for the first time was a fair result, if a predictable one, and the winning side had plenty of match-winners worthy of praise. Glenn McGrath confounded his many doubters yet again with a dominant display against New Zealand in the semi-final and handy contributions in two other matches. Nathan Bracken continued his stunning run in one day cricket with a brilliant spell that turned he final on its head, and Shane Watson made a successful transfer to the top of the order with wickets and runs throughout. Damien Martyn too hit back at some critics with yet more stunning performances on Indian soil.
Elsewhere in the tournament, Stephen Fleming defied a lively surface and a dangerous South African attack to carve out a brilliant 89, and backed up with 80 more against Pakistan to seal a semi-final birth for the Kiwis. Makhaya Ntini ensured that no nations from the sub-continent would reach the final four in a home tournament, as he blasted through Pakistan's top order with a stunning spell, and Kevin Pietersen grabbed a consolation victory for England with a magnificent unbeaten 90 against the West Indies.
One man stood head and shoulders above the pack throughout the month however. Chris Gayle was simply massive in the qualifying tournament before the Champions Trophy began, and the only match in which he failed to have an impact was unsurprisingly the one which the West Indies lost. In the main event, Gayle cracked a century against England, bettered it with an unbeaten 133 in the semi-final against South Africa, hammered Glenn McGrath and Brett Lee around the park in the final, and backed it all up with 35 economical overs and a few wickets. Gayle has been one of the stars of the improving West Indian ODI lineup for some years, but never have his matchwinning qualities been more obvious than in October 2006.
CricketWeb Player of the Month: October
In the second week of November, the focus of the cricket world shifted from ODIs in India to test cricket in Australia, with the buildup to the Ashes in full flow. Elsewhere, the West Indies embarked on a three test tour of Pakistan, and India looked to turn around a poor run of form in five ODIs in South Africa. November 23rd was the biggest date of the month, and Ricky Ponting set himself apart with a blistering 196 to kick off the Ashes, leading Australia to a comfortable victory in the process. Steve Harmison made himself the villain of the month with a nightmare performance, while McGrath turned back the clock and kept the vultures at bay with a brilliant 6/50 to skittle England on a good wicket.
While Australia's 1-0 lead perhaps got more attention, there can be no question that Mohammad Yousuf's achievements outstrip those of any other player for the month. Yousuf entered November in unstoppable test form, with five centuries and well over 1,000 runs for the year already. He outdid himself against the West Indies however, hammering four more centuries and 665 runs in three incredible tests. Along the way, he left the record total of 7 centuries in a year in the dust, and broke Viv Richards' 30 year old mark of 1710 runs in a year as well.
Yousuf took advantage of flat pitches in the first two tests to rack up scores in excess of 190 in each, overshadowed only by Brian Lara's brilliant double century in the second that led to the match being drawn. Heading into the third test, Yousuf was still 150 runs short of Viv's mark, and a slow and tricky pitch made scoring difficult. Nevertheless, Yousuf carved out a century in each innings, taking his total for the year to 9 and leading Pakistan to a 2-0 series win. Few batsmen have ever dominated so consistently over a 12 month period, and Yousuf's name in the history books is assured, as is his place as CricketWeb's player of the month.
CricketWeb Player of the Month: November