Masterly BattingDave Wilson |
In 2012, Patrick Ferriday’s first book When the Lights Went Out, covering the 1912 triangular tournament, was voted CricketWeb’s Book of the Year. Patrick’s new book, Masterly Batting – 100 Great Test Innings, is due out next month and is illuminated by contributions from the likes of David Frith and Ken Piesse writing on their boyhood heroes, Stephen Chalke on one of the greats of the inter-war years – Rob Smyth and Telford Vice on modern giants and Derek Pringle writing from the best view in the house, the other end of the pitch. Innings were assessed on ten major categories on both a subjective and an objective basis, including strength of bowling attack, conditions (and how they affected the attack), match and series impact and chances given, as well as such as intangibles as captaincy, trying circumstances, protection of the tail (or not) and running out team-mates (sorry Geoffrey!).
All eras of Test cricket are represented, from the 19th century to 2012 and as might be expected many great names are featured, some on more than one occasion. Several high-profile names who might be expected to feature ae conspicuous by their absence, such as Denis Compton and George Headley, while others who would never get near a discussion of the greatest batting legends enjoy an entry (take a bow, Darryl Cullinan and Azhar Mahmood) – that’s what can happen when individual innings rather than batsmen are considered. The book is configured of 500-word essays on the innings ranked from 100 down to 51, 1000 words on those ranked 49 to 25 and finally 3000 words on the top 25.
CricketWeb is delighted that contributions have also been made by no fewer than six of our feature writers – Martin Chandler, Sean Ehlers, David Taylor, Gareth Bland, David Mutton and Dave Wilson. As a taster for the book’s upcoming release we are proud to present several extracts from each of our authors, beginning with Martin and Dave.
David Boon – 143
Australia v New Zealand, Brisbane 4-7 December 1987
by Martin Chandler
David Boon’s Test career began when he was 23 with Australian cricket at a low point and, with the rest of his team, he performed only fitfully in the mid-1980s. But then Australia won the 1987 World Cup and the surge of confidence was still evident less than a month later when New Zealand came to the ‘Gabba for Australia’s first Test match since Mike Gatting’s side had won the 1986-87 Ashes series with something to spare.
This was the New Zealand of Richard Hadlee and Martin Crowe that had recently won a series in England for the first time and two years previously had taken their first ever series in Australia. Crowe was at the peak of his powers and Hadlee, despite being 36, was still at the top of his game and indeed in this match was to pass Dennis Lillee’s record of 355 Test wickets. Hadlee was also fond of Brisbane, having taken his Test-best there in November 1985, 9-52 and 15 for the match, in an innings victory.
The wicket for this game looked just as inviting as that which Hadlee had previously prospered on, Boon himself describing it as a “classic, juicy ‘Gabba strip”, and it was as well for Australia that Allan Border won the toss and invited New Zealand to bat. The Australian seamers proceeded to enjoy themselves and the visitors were all out for 186 early on the second morning. As for the Australian reply, the scorecard tells its own story. The wicket was undoubtedly a little easier than on the first day, but only one of the other Australian batsmen got to grips with the bowling. Boon batted oustandingly for almost the full day for his 143. He didn’t offer the New Zealand fielders anything and indeed was only dismissed as a result of a rash call by Steve Waugh. At the moment of his dismissal Australia were 219-4, so he had scored more than 65% of the team total. Of the other Australians, only leg-spinner Peter Sleep got out of the twenties and the 25 that Geoff Marsh contributed to the opening partnership of 65 was the second-highest contribution from the specialist batsmen.
Why was Boon so successful that day? In his own words “I made Hadlee bowl to me, rather than trying to bat to him. I felt so comfortable about letting balls go…I forced him to bowl into my pads and it was from balls bowled on this line that I scored plenty of runs”. Hadlee confirmed that in writing; “David had worked out a way of playing me that reduced my effectiveness” and he described the innings as “magnificent”.
New Zealand did a little better in their second innings, but the mere 94 Australia still needed was managed with ease. It was of course the start of an era of growing baggy-green dominance that endured for almost two decades, but without Boon’s 143 the dawning of the new age would have had to wait a while longer.
Brian Lara – 132
Australia v West Indies, Perth 1-3 February 1997
by Dave Wilson
To say that this series was an unhappy one for Brian Lara is to gravely understate. After 26 and 44 in the first Test he had failed to reach double figures in five consecutive innings prior to hitting 78 in the second innings at Adelaide, by which time the West Indies were already beaten. Bad batting was one thing, a bad attitude quite another – after being adjudged caught behind by Ian Healy he had later stormed into the Australian dressing room to remonstrate, despite Clive Lloyd’s earlier promise to keep relations civil.
Coming into the fifth Test with the rubber already lost, a Perth pitch having what Matthew Engel, in the Guardian, described as “ferocious pace” and in temperatures reaching 43C, Lara figured to do no better than he had in the previous four Tests.
After Ambrose had bowled Australia out for 243, Lara strode to the crease at 43-2 – he was to be next out, but by then he had carried the West Indies to an eight-run lead with the score at 251-3. In that time, he had crafted a century which was fashioned from what Tony Cozier described as “an exhilarating exhibition of strokes”, the best of which he saved for Warne, a cover drive to bring up his 100. Indeed, after a slow start it seemed, according to Wisden, that “for him, the cracks closed up and the bounce evened out”. His second 50 came in half the time of the first and he climaxed with 26 in just 14 deliveries off Warne, before the Australian maestro finally had him caught behind. Lara had batted for a shade under four hours and his 132 was scored off 183 balls with 22 fours and a six. He had been ably supported by Robert Samuels, who scored a fine 76 in the slipstream in what would be his last Test.
So much for great batting – at that evening’s press conference the acrimony returned as Lara accused the Australians of having subjected Samuels to an unacceptable degree of sledging. Australian captain Mark Taylor countered by claiming that Lara’s sledging had itself been unacceptable, calling Lara “an antagonist”. Whatever the truth, next day found Lara in hot water with umpires Peter Willey and Darrell Hair; Steve Waugh objected to Lara acting as a runner for Courtney Walsh, the ensuing argument necessitating an on-field lecture from the officials. Back to the cricket, and the tourists ended their first innings with a lead of 141, so that when Australia succumbed to Walsh for 194, the West Indies’ openers had merely to knock off the 55 runs required for a 10-wicket victory.
Lara would go on to reach further heights but unfortunately for the West Indies, having been beaten both home and away by the heirs-apparent, they were forced to hand over the crown they had worn for 15 years to an Australian team just beginning to blossom into one of the all-time greats.