Friday, 26 February 2010

Two Brett Lee's, two Shahzads and two-hundred not out

Lee handles the white ball far better than the red

Dennis Lillee greeted news of Brett Lee’s retirement from Test cricket with the following statement:
"Brett is going to go down as one of the great all-time express bowlers in the world ... 150-plus kph puts a huge strain on the body and it can only take so much. For him to play 76 Tests and take 300-odd wickets doing what he does is a credit to him."
Perhaps it takes one to know one, because I can’t for the life of me see how Lee can be considered a Test great. Apart from the first year of his career and a brief period in 2007-2008, he has actually been pretty average. He has never come close to hitting the kind of heights Dale Steyn has reached over the last couple of years. Lee has been over-hyped because he is clean living, photogenic and has happened to feature in some memorable Ashes and Border-Gavaskar battles. People’s perceptions of his effectiveness with the red ball are also coloured by his excellence with the white. Lee's ODI record may be pretty special but his Test record is not especially pretty.

At any rate, it’s sad to see him struggling with injury as he gives his all on the pitch and is very exciting to watch. Let’s hope he and his pal Freddie Flintoff both recover in time to play in next year’s World Cup.

Shahzad and Shahzad

It’s been an interesting week for a couple of cricketers named Shahzad. In the second of two T20Is against Pakistan in Dubai last week, Ajmal Shahzad had a fairly eventful England debut. His first ball was smacked straight back over his head for four, but his third and fifth brought him his first couple of international wickets. Later on, with Pakistan requiring a further 17 runs to win, Paul Collingwood entrusted him with the 49th over of the innings. Shahzad couldn’t contain a rampant Abdul Razzaq, however, who smashed consecutive sixes to take Pakistan home with an over to spare.

Meanwhile, 18-year-old Mohammad Shahzad and his Afghan teammates have continued their fairytale run. This particular Shahzad followed his match-winning knock in the final of the World Twenty20 Qualifying Tournament with a hundred in the first of two ODIs against Canada. When Afghanistan lost the second ODI and then conceded a first innings deficit of 302 in a first class game against the same opposition, I thought they were set for a come-down from their incredible high. How wrong I was. They chased down a mammoth fourth innings target of 494 to win by 6 wickets, scoring at more than 4.5 runs per over to get home with just 14 balls to spare. Mohammad Shahzad made a magnificent 214 not out. What next for him and Afghanistan? An ODI double-century…?

A little masterful

Indian batsman Sachin Tendulkar celebrates after scored the double hundred during the second one day internationl match between India and South Africa

If I had a penny for every compliment Sachin Tendulkar has been paid since Wednesday, I’d probably be able to buy myself an IPL franchise.

It’s hard to begrudge the Little Master one bit of the praise that has been coming his way, as it’s so utterly appropriate that he was the man to break the 200 barrier in ODIs. As a Test cricketer, Sachin will go down as an all-time great; as a one-day cricketer, he is surely the all-time great.

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