Brian Lara’s final international appearance came in a losing cause for the West Indies but the great game of cricket was the ultimate winner of the day. At the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, the packed house were treated to a perfect One Day International. The side batting first made 300 and the chasing team got to the target with just one ball to spare and one wicket in hand! Yes it was England that held its nerve eventually to win their first match against a major side. Nevertheless, the crowd showed its loyalty to the Prince who has been a pure entertainer for the last 17 years or so.
Michael Vaughan had put the homeside in on a wicket where the ball would always come onto the bat but there was lot of pace and bounce for the liking of the pacers. The stage was set for a Brian Lara blitz as the two openers Chris Gayle and Devon Smith put on a century stand at run-a-ball. Liam Plunkett was smacked for two fours and two sixes by Chris Gayle in the 8th over in consecutive deliveries, it surely is exciting to watch Gayle in full flow! It could have been a much better rate for Windies as Gayle pounded the bowlers almost every delivery but Devon Smith was in his shell. That neutralized the ‘Gayle effect’ in the middle. Gayle was the first to go, dismissed for 79 from 58 balls which had 10 fours and 3 sixes! The score was 131 for 1 and Lara took this opportunity to come at no.3.
Brian Lara even at the age of 37 showed that he still has a few seasons as he stamped his class with a princely square drive off Freddie to get his first boundary. It looked as if Lara was going to have fun in his last innings. But the fun lasted only for few deliveries with the party ending in a disappointing run out of the Prince, who was cheated by his partner Marlon Samuels. Prior to the Lara dismissal, Windies had lost Devon Smith through a brilliant catch at point from Collingwood. Devon Smith scratched around to make 61 from 106. But Lara’s last essay was 18 runs from 17 balls with 3 fours, atleast he got more runs than what the Don had got in his last appearance! That ended Lara’s career at 10405 ODI runs (19 hundreds and 63 50s from 299 games) but he achieved a lot more in Test Cricket with 11953 runs (34 hundreds and 48 50s in 131 Tests).
West Indies were at 173 for 3 and soon became 181 for 4 in 33.2 overs with Sarwan falling to Plunkett. And that was a big blow for the home team but then the ever reliable Chanderpaul was only coming at no.6. So a partnership between Samuels and Chanderpaul got the Windies back on the track as they got to 300 losing all its wickets in 49.5 overs. Samuels was the star in a crucial phase getting 51 from 39 with 6 fours and a six while Chanderpaul got 34. England did well in the last 10 overs giving away just 50 runs which was because of the six wickets it got in the slogs. Michael Vaughan bowled his off breaks smartly taking 3 for 39 in 10 overs.
The home team were the favourites to win this contest but you never know what can happen with a team that has the dangerous Kevin Pietersen. To begin with it was Michael Vaughan and Ravi Bopara, promoted at no.3 putting on 90 runs for the second wicket. Bopara made 26 and was followed back to the pavilion by Vaughan but only after he had put on another 50-run partnership, this time with KP. It was a good knock from Vaughan, one that could keep his place in the One Day version. He got 79 from just 68 balls with 6 fours and two sixes as England got into a good position at 154 for 3 in over 26 overs. The Windies came back strongly with three quick wickets and England were in trouble at 189 for 6 in almost 36 overs. However, KP was still there and he pulled out a magical 80-run stand with the never-say-die Paul Nixon in just over 10 overs to get the equation back in England’s favour.
Pietersen departed in the 47th over trying to squeeze in another big shot just after striking Taylor for a six to leave England to 32 to win from 22 balls. KP got his second hundred of the tournament, getting exactly 100 today facing 91 balls with 10 fours and a six. With just 29 to get from three overs with two wickets in hand, Nixon smashed three boundaries off Collymore which was rewarded with a bonus of four byes to help England get 17 in that 48th over! And now it was run-a-ball with 12 required, Nixon got another boundary but he fell to a slower one from Bravo with just three to get from four balls! Nixon made 38 from 39 with 4 fours but it was an unfinished job from him! Fortunately for him and for England, Stuart Broad got enough bat to get one over the infield that settled the matter. England won in the second last ball of the match. KP was the Man of the Match. It was a well fought match by both sides so why will anyone have any complaints about that? The result of this game wouldn’t have bothered many people with both these sides not making it to the business end of the World Cup.