Chanderpaul & the art of run scoring

As the old french saying goes, ‘plus ça change, plus c’est la même chose’ and nowhere was that more fitting than at the Oval on a chilly Easter weekend. In a County Championship match for Lancashire versus Surrey, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, aged 42, did what he has done since his first class debut over 25 years ago; scored runs, lots of runs.

One of crickets great accumulators, Chanderpaul, whose 11,867 test runs puts him seventh overall in the game’s top run scorers, rolled back the years to put on a masterclass in run accumulation. Chanderpaul, whose front on stance would have modern coaches pulling their hair out, scored his 74th first class century to help Lancashire claim a draw after a top order collapse on Day 1 of the match.

Chanderpaul, who made his debut for the West Indies just under a year before Surrey’s Tom Curran was even born, came to the crease with Lancashire in trouble at 44-3. Tasked with leading a fightback, it took him 15 balls to score his first run and saw him lose two partners in the space of three balls as Livingstone & Vilas fell to Footitt.

In a scene reminiscent to the majority of his test career, he became the calm anchor around which an innings was to be built. He started the fightback with a 55 run partnership with McClaren before the latter was dismissed with the score on 122-6.

He and Clark then put on 243 for the seventh wicket before the Lancashire’s innings ended with Chanderpaul’s dismissal for 182. Lancashire were 470 all out, with 426 of them coming while he was at the crease.

There is something so wonderfully reassuring about watching Chanderpaul in action. A player seemingly out of time with the modern game, yet a perfect reminder of just how beautiful the art of run scoring can be.

England’s ODI renaissance still a work in progress

Monday 9th March 2015 was the date when England’s one day side had finally hit rock bottom. They’d already been hammered by Australia and flat out humiliated by New Zealand and yet were still in with a chance to qualify for the knock-out out stages of the World Cup.

All England needed to do was beat Bangladesh to all but secure their place in the quarter finals. Chasing 276 for victory, England’s cautious approach left the tail too much to do at the death and slumped to 260 all out. Another World Cup been and gone, another World Cup that England had failed to make an impact on.

The resulting fall out of the disastrous World Cup campaign saw Peter Moores removed as head coach of England, Trevor Bayliss hired as coach and Andrew Strauss named Director of Cricket. All this upheaval in the name of dragging the England out of the dark ages and back into relevance.

This was no mean feat considering the paucity of batting prowess in the 50 over format, where our top century maker, Marcus Trescothick with 12, last played an ODI more than a decade ago. And Graham Gooch is still third in the all-time list…

England’s top century makers:

  1. Trescothick – 12
  2. Pietersen – 9
  3. Root, Morgan & Gooch – 8

All-time top century makers:

  1. Tendulkar – 49
  2. Ponting – 30
  3. Jayasuriya – 28

The England side had long been mired in the same batting tactics that had been discarded by so many teams a decade earlier. The plan to keep wickets in hand for the later overs, only served to put pressure on the middle order and invariably leave them 20/30 runs shy of a par score.

The new era of English white ball cricket began in a sensational five match series against New Zealand, in which England recorded both their first ever 400+ score and their highest winning chase (350-3 in the fourth ODI). It proved a watershed moment and England have pushed on to become one of the most exciting teams in the world.

Since the World Cup, England are the highest scoring team in terms of runs per over with 6.31. Compare that to the previous two years where they ranked seventh with 5.28 and you can see the seismic leap that the England team has taken.

Runs per over – 1 April 2013 to 29 March 2015:

  1. England – 6.31
  2. South Africa – 5.85
  3. Australia – 5.81

7. England – 5.28

Runs per over – 30 March 2015 to 26 February 2017:

  1. England – 6.31
  2. South Africa – 5.85
  3. Australia – 5.81

However, while England have made significant progress they are still lacking the experience and consistency to be considered one of the great teams. In comparison to other batsmen, England are still behind the likes of India, South Africa, Australia and New Zealand.

Morgan & Root are England’s leading active century makers with 8 a piece but that doesn’t get them into the top 10 of current players. Kohli is the most profilic with 27 to his name and to put that in context; the current England side only has 30 between them. This disparity highlights the work that is still ahead for this exciting young team.

Most ODI hundreds of active players:

  1. Kohli – 27
  2. Amla, de Villiers – 24
  3. Taylor – 17

Most ODI hundreds since 30 March 2015:

  1. Warner – 9
  2. de Kock – 6
  3. Taylor, Kohli – 5

But England’s growth in ODIs cannot be overlooked. The shift in mindset and performance in such a short space of time is nigh on miraculous. Freed from the shackles of an archaic batting strategy, the team has exploded into life. And with so many young players hitting their stride, this team is going to be one of the most enjoyable teams to watch for the next decade.

Why we all love a tailender

Mitchell Starc’s heroics with the bat in the first test of the India vs Australia series in Pune showed the value of bowlers who can hold their own with the bat too. His 61 off 63 balls, which included six 4s and three 6s, proved crucial in helping the visitors post 260 in the first innings after slumping to 205-9. It also reminded us of the unbridled joy of watching a tailender put a bowling attack to the sword.

We’ve all been there, whether as a player or a fan, on the receiving end or the ones doling out the punishment. The top order have been dispatched. The middle order dismantled. All that stands between you and victory is the tail end. Bless them, they try their best and hell, they might even get a few streaky runs before they join the real batsmen in the hutch. But they’re not a threat. They’re an opportunity for the bowlers to boost their average, pad out the stat sheets and get that often elusive fiver-fer.

Every now and again however, tailenders ignore the script, struck with a new found belief that they are the next in a long line of great all-rounders. Suddenly they’re seeing the ball like a beach ball, striking it with the confidence and ferocity of Beefy at Headingley. So what if the top order had made a hash of it? They clearly hadn’t read the pitch properly. But no to worry, the tail will sort this one out.

Who can forget Monty Panesar slog sweeping Muralitharan for six? His 28 ball cameo yielded 26 runs and brought a little magic back to the England batting line up that had been decimated by Murali’s 8-70. Or Jason Gillespie’s epic 201* as nightwatchmen against Bangladesh in his final test appearance? A man whose plan on the day was simple, “block it when it’s on the stumps, and hit it when it’s not!”

There is something undeniably fun about watching a bowler at the crease. They look nervous, their footwork and technique stuck firmly between all over the place and non-existent. Then they cream one through the covers and all their awkwardness melts away. Unshackled from the knowledge of their previous batting performances, the shoulders loosen and they start to enjoy themselves. And the crowd, always a fan of an underdog, cheer them on to scale heights they never thought possible.

Watching a tailender bat brings out the kids in us all, whisking us back the halycon days of cricket in the park. And their see ball, hit ball philosophy reminding us of what we can achieve when we enjoy ourselves and don’t take it all too seriously.