Test Match of the Decade: Staff vs ForumDave Wilson |
As part of CW’s tenth anniversary celebrations we had the idea to choose an all-time favourite Test XI. When one staff member pointed out that the forum was in the process of doing something similar, with the ongoing Battle of the CW Faves, it was a short jump to selecting two teams from the Staff nominations and top vote-getters from the Forum battle, and then running a sim to find the champs. A big thank you at this point to Rob Cribb for entering the data and running the sim.
The members of CW’s staff were polled and eventually, after some mostly good-natured tie-breaking, a final eleven was selected. For the Forum team, we decided to select those who had polled the most votes in the most recent round (position permitting – a selection comprising eleven middle-order batsmen would be somewhat limited as far as bowling skill was concerned).
So here are the final sections:-
STAFF FORUM Sir Jack Hobbs Graham Gooch Marcus Trescothick Rahul Dravid Nasser Hussain* Kumar Sangakkara Sir Viv Richards Brian Lara Brian Lara ` Mahela Jayawardene Adam Gilchrist Sir Frank Worrell* Andrew Flintoff Sir Richard Hadlee Wasim Akram Wasim Akram Harold Larwood Michael Holding Shane Warne Shane Bond Allan Donald Muttiah Muralitharan
With two Knights of the Realm on either side, you could say “honours” were even at least based on selection. The sharper eyed among you will have noted another link between the two sides, in that both Brian Lara and Wasim Akram were selected for both sides, requiring some creative captaincy as regards bowling changes when Wasim was batting. Controversy has surrounded the exclusion of Sachin Tendulkar from either side, considering these are two teams of favourites, but the people have spoken, and Tendulkar narrowly missed out in both cases.
Demographically, the Staff team possibly reflected their own geographic representation, comprising five Englishmen, two West Indians, two Australians, plus one each from Pakistan and South Africa. The Forum side, meanwhile, had a more balanced global feel with only one Englishman, along with three each from the West Indies and Sri Lanka, two from New Zealand, plus one each from India and Pakistan.
With significantly more votes than the next best opener, Dravid was selected to open the Forum batting with Gooch, a role he has filled from time to time with India. While the Staff team featured Hobbs and Larwood from pre-WWII days, both teams had a decidedly modern look about them, the elder statesman of the Forum side being their captain, Sir Frank Worrell.
And so to the match itself. The CricketWeb Oval was the chosen venue, and all seats were sold out months in advance for this one-off contest featuring two mouth-watering line-ups of all-time greats. The pitch was in fairly good condition though Sir Geoffrey’s key could have found a few cracks, however the weather on the first day was fine and sunny, although the Staff side with its surfeit of Englishmen were no doubt heartened by the forecast for worsening weather later in the week.
Close of play: Staff 306/6 (Lara 84*, Wasim Akram 4*, 90 overs)
First day honours lay very much with the Staff batsmen, sitting on a healthy 306/6 at the close with Brian Lara stroking his way towards a 35th test century, though fielding more closely approaching Test calibre may have left things a little more evenly balanced, the Forum fielders having put down three simple chances. Hussain called correctly and decided that the Staff team would bat first, so Sir Jack Hobbs strode confidently to the crease with Marcus Trescothick in tow listening carefully as the Master bestowed words of encouragement. What effect they had we can’t know for sure – Dravid was later to comment that the only words he could make out as Hobbs walked by were “Oh? And what, pray, is a twitter?”, though doubtless teammate Shane Warne could help him out there. A close LBW appeal on Trescothick saw the UDRS employed in just the second over, accompanied by the somewhat comical sight of Trescothick explaining to a bewildered Hobbs exactly what was going on.
Fierce fast bowling from Holding and Bond ensured a slow start from Hobbs and Trescothick, Hobbs having refused to wear a helmet (“I’ll warrant these fellows could not best McDonald and Gregory in their pomp”); Holding soon sent first Trescothick then Hussain back to the pavilion with the score on 50 for two. At this point we were treated to the sight of Hobbs and Viv Richards partnered at the crease, both sans helmet, with Richards’ presence having a decidedly positive impact on his partner’s strike rate, no doubt with that mythical 200th ton in mind (or 198th, depending who you believe). Despite the attempts at big hitting or perhaps because of it, Bond soon had Richards caught in the slips and the Staff were 83 for three.
Murali came on for Bond at that point and immediately trapped Hobbs LBW, the Staff now in a somewhat rocky position on 114 for four. Lara was now joined by Gilchrist, the latter tempering his attacking instincts to settle things down somewhat. However after tea Gilchrist took out his bat, sixes in successive overs bringing up his fifty from only 59 balls, with 28 off the last fourteen. The hundred partnership followed soon after with Gilchrist garnering the lions share, and he celebrated by attempting to slog Holding and being caught on the boundary, out for 60 with two 6s and five boundaries, 214 for five.
Lara and Flintoff then combined for a steady 50 partnership after which Flintoff this time decided to take the reins, hitting two 6s before completely mistiming an attempted slog off Holding which took out his off stump, 291 for six, which was extended to 306 for six at stumps. Lara was sitting nicely on 91 not out and proving, as he had done many times before, to be the cornerstone of his team’s innings.
(Hobbs was heard in the dressing room to invite Larwood to dinner, however Larwood declined, claiming that he didn’t like lamb and that in any case he had plans to meet someone he referred to as JBMAC – apparently they were old friends.)
Close of play: Forum 225/4 (Jayawardene 8*, Worrell 11*, 65 overs)
Brian Lara created an unmatched Test record by scoring a century for two different teams in the same match, vindicating both teams decision not to bow to the pressure of those who felt that the same player should not be permitted to represent both teams. Both teams had even selected the same player to substitute for Lara and Wasim Akram when they were representing the opposition…Gary Pratt.
Once Lara reached his century during the Staff first innings he began to hit out; after having reached his century from 194 balls he scored at a run a ball the rest of the way, running out of partners at 155* from the final Staff total of 395 all out. Lara’s protection of the tail was exemplary – from the 72 runs out on for the last three wickets, Lara scored 57 runs, though he should have been caught on 123 when Wasim Akram dropped a very simple chance off Murali. Holding was the chief wicket taker for the Forum team, finishing with figures of four for 76.
The Forum began their first innings just before lunch, openers Gooch and Dravid facing the daunting prospect of Harold Larwood and Allan Donald under decidedly overcast skies. The latter (who had been told by Larwood that his haircut would not have looked out of place in his day) exploited the conditions immediately, dispensing of both Gooch and Sangakkara for ducks with only five runs scored. 390 runs behind and already two wickets down, the advantage was most definitely with the Staff. Indeed Donald should have had a third wicket with only 18 on the board, however Trescothick put down Lara when he was on 3, and Lara survived again only two runs later when Larwood had a close appeal for LBW turned down – the stump mike picked up his query (“Who’s ‘Awk Eye?”). Incidentally, there was consternation in the broadcast booth after Larwood’s first over when his pitch map showed only one mark on a perfect length and it was assumed that the technology had malfunctioned; eventually it was discovered that this was because all six balls had pitched in exactly the same spot.
Lara and Dravid proceeded to settle things down from that point, their 50 partnership coming from 100 balls with tea being reached at 92 for two, the Forum now looking in much better shape. Lara took 92 balls to reach 50 and Dravid 82 balls, but by now both players were now scoring much more quickly, the 100 partnership reached being reached in only 175 balls. Lara, surviving a drop when on 73, went onto his second century of the game without trouble, but after Dravid is missed by Gilchrist, Lara is soon caught out coming down the wicket to Wasim Akram, cleaned bowled for 102 off only 143 balls. However, after being 5/2 the Forum innings was now in a much healthier position at 202/3 after a marvellous partnership of 197 between Lara and Dravid. Only five runs were added before Dravid himself was gone, a fine 82 with eight 4s. Stumps were reached at 225/4.
Close of play: Staff 134/5 (Flintoff 11*, Gilchrist 10*, 48 overs)
The conclusion of the Forum first innings was largely memorable for the sight of Wasim Akram being caught in the slips off Larwood while batting for the Forum team, then immediately going on to bowl for the Staff and having Holding caught by Larwood, and also for some marvellous hitting from Hadlee. When Larwood took the new ball early on the third day he was able to generate astonishing fire considering the state of the pitch, his first six deliveries all topping 100 mph. Apart from Hadlee, the scoring was very slow and the highlight was then the sparkling performance of Murali, ending the day with a spell of three wickets for just six runs.
Jayawardene and Worrell struck up a 50 partnership shortly before the new ball was taken, but after that wickets began to fall and the scoring dropped alarmingly. Flintoff first had Worrell LBW for 44, then Larwood trapped Jayawardene, the batsman having limped to 37 off 100 balls with a single boundary. Lunch was reached with the Forum score at 299 for six, and after the break Hadlee began to put on a show, hitting three 4s and a 6 in only 12 deliveries. With the Wasim Akram switch-over described above the Forum was now 360 for eight. By the time the Forum were all out for 374, 21 runs behind, Hadlee had added another 6, finishing on 48* from only 56 balls.
The Staff second innings began steadily, with Hobbs and Trescothick reaching tea at 23 without loss. After tea, Trescothick in particular took out his bat, hitting Bond for three consecutive boundaries, but was soon out for 24. After 19 overs Murali was brought on, though his slow start gave no hint of the fireworks to follow. He didn’t strike until his eighth over but then dispatched of the trio of Hobbs, Richards and Lara – rarely can three victims of such glittering magnitude have been vanquished in succession. Flintoff at this point joined Gilchrist and the pair saw the Staff through to stumps at 134 for five.
Close of play: Forum 242/3 (Lara 113*, Jayawardene 47*, 58 overs)
Yet another record in the glittering career of Brian Lara, as he became surely the only player ever to score three centuries in a single game. This particular knock was vintage Lara, his 113* coming from 143 balls with 15 fours and a six, as the total advanced by 195 runs. The Forum had been set a target of 245 after the heroics of Murali, who finished with figures of seven for 73 (nine for 140 for the match), and ended the day only four runs short of their target with only three wickets down.
Murali struck early on the fourth day, mesmerising Gilchrist for only 14. The pitch was by now beginning to show quite a few cracks and the bounce was a little unpredictable and, after he had added five more Flintoff also fell to Murali, the Staff by now looking shaky on 156 for seven, Murali having taken five successive wickets for 37. He had by now suffered two drops and soon after was appealing for LBW on Warne, which was not upheld. Wasim Akram was fortunate to survive two chances but Murali soon had him anyway, though he fashioned a fine 41. The writing was by now on the wall as the Staff were 220 for nine and only 241 runs ahead, so that shortly after lunch Murali took his seventh and final wicket to send the Staff tumbling to 224 all out.
For the second time in the match Gooch and Dravid faced up to Larwood and Donald, however this time it was Dravid who did not survive for long, clean bowled by Larwood for just 11. With the same bowler trapping Sangakkara for 10 the Forum were now 47 for two and the Staff clinging to a slim hope of pulling out a surprise victory. At this point though, Lara joined Gooch and stamped his authority on the game to such an extent that when the 50 partnership came up he had scored 35 to Gooch’s 14. Gooch departed after a fine 51 with the Forum 117 for three, after which Lara reached his 50 off 77 balls. Jayawardene played with far more authority than he had done in the first innings, almost matching Lara shot for shot as the pair fired to a 100 partnership in just 134 balls. Lara reached his historic ton with a glorious cover drive for four, 103* off only 132 balls with 13 fours and a six.
Even when Warne came on he could tame Lara, the batsmen swatting Warne imperiously for 10 runs off the last over of the day as he tried in vain to finish the proceedings in four days, such that at stumps the Forum were 242/3.
Close of play: Forum 246/4 won by six wickets
The final day dawned bright and, as Cardus might have said, the sun shone plenteously as Lara strode to the wicket with the intent of crowning his amazing game with the winning runs. After a single from Jayawardene, Lara faced Wasim Akram and, going for a punch back over the bowler’s head was caught and bowled after a spectacular reach, to audible groans from the large crowd – Lara’s magnificent innings saw him score 113 from 144 balls. Skipper Worrell then came to the crease, took guard and struck a beautiful shot to third man, the batsmen running the three runs required for victory.
Victory in the end was relatively easy for the Forum team, following wonderful bowling by Murali with excellent batting from Lara, ably supported by Gooch and Jayawardene. Despite Murali’s success, there could be only one choice for man of the Match and the announcement of Lara’s name to a large crowd was greeted with a huge cheer.
And so the forum, who always give the impression of knowing more than the staff, can certainly claim that to be true, at least as far as selecting an all-time test XI is concerned.
SCORECARD Internet Test Cricket Scoreboard ===================================== Cricket Web Forum vs Cricket Web Staff Played at Cricket Web Oval Cricket Web Staff 1st Innings JB Hobbs lbw b Muralitharan 48 119 6 0 ME Trescothick ct Hadlee b Holding 19 52 1 0 N Hussain ct Sangakkara b Holding 12 9 1 1 IVA Richards ct Lara b Bond 21 28 3 0 BC Lara not out 155 253 15 2 AC Gilchrist ct Wasim Akram b Holding 60 92 5 2 A Flintoff b Holding 34 46 2 2 Wasim Akram ct Holding b Hadlee 13 33 2 0 H Larwood lbw b Muralitharan 10 29 1 0 SK Warne ct Sangakkara b Bond 1 4 0 0 AA Donald ct Worrell b Bond 0 13 0 0 Extras (byes 1 leg byes 14 no balls 5 wides 2) 22 Total (10 Wkts 112.1 Overs) 395 Fall of Wkts 36 50 83 114 214 291 323 373 374 395 Bond 25.1 7 60 3 3 0 Holding 23 3 76 4 0 0 Hadlee 25 3 82 1 1 0 Wasim Akram 18 1 95 0 1 2 Muralitharan 21 4 67 2 0 0 Cricket Web Forum 1st Innings GA Gooch ct Flintoff b Donald 0 13 0 0 R Dravid ct Donald b Warne 82 197 8 0 KC Sangakkara ct Gilchrist b Donald 0 2 0 0 BC Lara b Wasim Akram 102 150 7 2 DPMD Jayawardene lbw b Larwood 37 100 1 0 FMM Worrell lbw b Flintoff 44 81 7 0 RJ Hadlee not out 48 56 4 2 Wasim Akram ct Richards b Larwood 16 27 2 0 MA Holding ct Larwood b Wasim Akram 8 6 1 0 SE Bond b Donald 5 9 1 0 M Muralitharan ct Lara b Wasim Akram 0 1 0 0 Extras (byes 0 leg byes 16 no balls 12 wides 4) 32 Total (10 Wkts 105.0 Overs) 374 Fall of Wkts 5 5 202 207 280 299 342 360 367 374 Donald 26 3 85 3 4 2 Larwood 23 1 70 2 3 2 Wasim Akram 19 0 90 3 4 0 Flintoff 16 2 46 1 1 0 Warne 21 2 67 1 0 0 Cricket Web Staff 2nd Innings JB Hobbs b Muralitharan 32 104 2 0 ME Trescothick ct Wasim Akram b Hadlee 24 41 4 0 N Hussain ct Sangakkara b Holding 21 43 1 0 IVA Richards lbw b Muralitharan 8 24 0 0 BC Lara ct Holding b Muralitharan 13 28 1 0 AC Gilchrist b Muralitharan 14 55 0 0 A Flintoff ct Jayawardene b Muralitharan 20 33 3 0 Wasim Akram ct Gooch b Muralitharan 41 71 4 0 H Larwood ct Sangakkara b Hadlee 10 31 1 0 SK Warne not out 20 33 2 0 AA Donald b Muralitharan 4 9 1 0 Extras (byes 0 leg byes 11 no balls 6 wides 0) 17 Total (10 Wkts 77.4 Overs) 224 Fall of Wkts 42 85 96 99 118 143 156 179 220 224 Bond 11 2 46 0 1 0 Hadlee 14 3 36 2 0 0 Holding 14 0 26 1 3 0 Muralitharan 29.4 4 73 7 0 0 Wasim Akram 9 1 32 0 2 0 Cricket Web Forum 2nd Innings GA Gooch ct Richards b Wasim Akram 51 85 5 0 R Dravid b Larwood 11 19 1 0 KC Sangakkara lbw b Larwood 10 28 1 0 BC Lara ct & b Wasim Akram 113 144 15 1 DPMD Jayawardene not out 48 78 3 1 FMM Worrell not out 3 1 0 0 RJ Hadlee Wasim Akram MA Holding SE Bond M Muralitharan Extras (byes 0 leg byes 6 no balls 3 wides 1) 10 Total (4 Wkts 58.4 Overs) 246 Fall of Wkts 23 47 117 243 Donald 11 1 49 0 2 0 Larwood 15 2 50 2 0 1 Warne 16 1 61 0 0 0 Wasim Akram 10.4 1 50 2 1 0 Flintoff 6 0 30 0 0 0 Cricket Web Forum won by 6 wkts.
The Ball by Ball Output can be downloaded here.