April 2006: Dizzy

Somewhere along the line in April 2006, a couple of games of International cricket went along entirely according to expectations – generally as India’s ODI side found various new ways to embarrass a tired England. In between times, however, the script book was simultaneously torn to shreds and thrown out the window as sports writers furiously sought metaphor to describe just what was going on.

Makhaya Ntini reduced New Zealand to 28/6 at Centurion. Two weeks later, Stephen Fleming and James Franklin added 256 for the eighth wicket at Newlands as the South African winter topped and tailed the days’ play through dew and twilight. Mohammad Asif and Abdul Razzaq shared nine wickets as Sri Lanka capitulated for 73 and lost a home series. Zimbabwe occasionally showed signs of being something other than a grossly substandard indictment of the ICC’s blind eyes, and Ian Blackwell took a wicket.

The cricketing world was, if not on its head, at least approaching horizontal. Then Bangladesh against Australia happened. Not content with a First Test at Fatullah that needed not one, but two match-winning centuries from Adam Gilchrist and Ricky Ponting after the Tigers had Australia 156 for seven, chasing a first-innings 427 that was inspired by a Shahriar Nafees century. Mashrafe Mortaza may never forget dropping Ponting on the final morning with 27 still needed, and as it was, the World Champions survived – albeit barely – with their reputations intact.

Then came Chittagong. Order seemed restored as the Bangladeshis subsided for 197, and Jason Gillespie strode to the wicket as night-watchman on the first evening. 574 minutes, 425 balls, 26 fours and two sixes later, reality was suspended for the week as the no-longer-bemulleted fast bowler became Test cricket’s least likely double centurion, with a higher mark than the Waugh twins and David Boon, to name but three.

From being queued in the firing lines of the English terraces, media and, most critically, middle order – during an Ashes haul of 47 runs at 7.83 and three wickets at precisely 100 – eight months later the table were not so much turned as pulped. Yes, it’s probably a massive one-off… but what a one-off.

Cricket Web Player of the Month
April 2006

Jason Gillespie

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