Saturday, May 19, 2012

Shiv the Selfish, Really?

And so England's international cricketing summer is up and running, with the West Indies facing the best test team in the world at the Home of Cricket this week. The weather has been decidedly moist in England over the past few weeks but remarkably it stayed dry for whole of the first day at Lords, and a packed house was treated to some fine cricket. Jimmy Anderson, proclaimed the ECB player of the year earlier this week dominated early on with the ball, teeing Kieron Powell up with a textbook out-swing, in-swing combination, before some nice stroke play from Barath and the hyperbole-drenched Darren Bravo - who was relentlessly compared to one Brian Charles Lara all day on Twitter - steadied the ship before lunch.

It was in the afternoon session however that another of the world's best took to the field and caused a bit of consternation amongst the cricket establishment. Shivnarine Chanderpaul, statistically the world's finest batsman and lynchpin to this inexperienced West Indies batting line up, took to the field and scored in the context of the game a very valuable 87 out of the West Iindies overnight total of 243 for 9.

So, Shiv the West Indies hero once again, one shouldn't wonder? Well maybe not. Chanderpaul stuck to the task of carrying the Windies middle and lower order through to close, but a couple of wickets fell that commentators felt the "Tiger" was more than a little responsible for.

Firstly, when partnering Lara's cousin Darren Bravo, Chanderpaul refused a straight forward run that Bravo had called him through for from the non-strikers end. It was probably Bravo's call, the ball going slightly behind square, but you could argue Bravo could have been more observant - Shiv never moved for the run.

Secondly, in the last over of the day Chanderpaul called Kemar Roach through for a single, exposing the tail-ender to the last balls of the day. Roach perished, leaving the West Indies 243 for 9 overnight.

Of course you could say Chanderpaul was protecting himself so that he could bat for another hour on day two. He didn't, with debutant Gabriel out first ball on day two, but had Chanderpaul batted through the first hour say on Friday morning, it might have been a different story.

Test cricket is about spending time in the middle too don't forget. Had Chanderpaul not scored those runs and the West Indies had been rolled over before close yesterday, England would already be piling on the runs by now. As it was England's bowlers knew they had to come back in the morning and finish a job. It makes a difference.

One criticism of Shiv is that he bats at five in the order and sure, he could and maybe should bat higher up the order. But he is the anchor of the West Indies side; those around him know he'll stick around. If the top 4 score a few, great - Chanderpaul comes in and can be more aggressive. Should they fail, as is the more likely (sadly), then at least Shiv can stick around with the tail, getting something resembling a competitive score on the board.

West Indies captain Darren Sammy has said that if it benefits the team, he will move Shiv up the order. You have to trust the skipper here too - you'd hope it's his choice that Chanderpaul is batting at five and not not the choice of his most senior player, but only those in the dressing really know the answer to that.

All in all England will feel confident of posting a big innings here at lords. The wicket doesn't have a great deal of pace in it and you wonder how au fait the West Indies bowling attack will be with these chilly, seaming conditions but for me, without Shiv's knock, they'd be buried in this match already.

Tom Huelin for DieHard Cricket Fans
Follow Tom on Twitter @tomhue1

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