Spinners lead MCC to victory

In a match full of the games’ stars, the MCC versus the International XI at Lord’s burst with potential and the collection of mini-battles such as Akhtar versus Sehwag, Warne versus Kallis and Lara against Kumble promised to enthral the masses. However the event was not really about cricket, following on from Melbourne’s tsunami relief match. It was nevertheless played in the right spirit, with a wink and a grin.

The Marylebone Cricket Club was put in to bat after loosing the toss. Captain Stephen Fleming and Chris Gayle opened up and began cautiously. Chaminda Vaas was especially miserly, which paid dividends with the wicket of Gayle for 4 in the fourth over (14-1). This brought Sourav Ganguly in the crease, which immediately triggered the New Zealand skipper into action, playing an aggressive yet articulate offside game. He capitalised on some loose Mohammad Sami bowling, and Ganguly started to get into some touch at the other end. Vaas got his man though, Ganguly attempting to cut too close to his body in the eleventh (52 for 2).

The next ten overs brought the introduction of Chris Cairns and Makhaya Ntini to the bowling crease, which new batsman Jacques Kallis joined Fleming in taking apart. Fleming reached his half-century off 46 balls, coming from a lofted square drive for six. The same shot resulted in his dismissal, when teammate Cairns got him caught in the deep with a wink and a smile for 62 off 59 balls (114 for 3).

Kallis also made 62, as the middle order of the MCC all contributed more than usefully. Andy Flower made 55 from 39 balls, adding 84 in the last ten overs with Kumar Sangakkara. The nature of the event gave reason for International XI captain Brian Lara to give 10 players a bowl, including his rarely witnessed leg spin. This enabled the MCC get past 300, reaching 327 for 7.

After Virender Sehwag was trapped in front by Shaun Pollock in the third over (10 for one), Graeme Smith strode to the wicket and played positively from the first ball. Despite the efforts of a rampant Shoaib Akhtar, who hit 93mph during his opening spell, Smith played confidently through the covers. Sanath Jayasuria reached the boundary on occasion with bold offside stroke play, but found deep mid-wicket on Kumble’s first ball (66 for 2).

It was when skipper Brian Lara came to the wicket that the fireworks really began. In a brilliant display of audacious stroke making, Smith and Lara added 75 off just 8.1 overs, as they kept above the run rate. Lara in particular rattled some feathers, scoring five fours and a six in his 27-ball 42. The re-introduction of Anil Kumble was timely however, removing Lara with a top edged sweep (141 for 3) and then Smith on 62 as Sangakkara made a swift stumping (168 for 4).

Harbhajan Singh then eradicated the last remnants of hope for the International team, bowling Shivnarine Chanderpaul around his legs and soon after had Cairns stumped. At 175 for 6, the crowd’s hope of a revival ended. Gayle wrapped up the tail with three quick wickets, ending with 3 for 28. The spin trio shared nine wickets between them, with Kumble, Harbhajan and Gayle all picking up three wickets each. The International XI finished with 215 all out off 35 overs.

MCC XI 327 for 7 (Fleming 62, Kallis 62, Flower 55) defeated the International XI 215 (Smith 68, Lara 42) by 112 runs.

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