There have been 10 different international teams in action over the past week – there should have been 12, but Scotland’s match against Canada was abandoned without a ball bowled at Uddingston – giving us plenty of candidates for this week’s Cricket World Player of the Week award.
To begin with, England Women and India Women have been battling it out in a five-match One-Day International series around the country. Mithali Raj is perhaps the stand-out player so far. She hit an unbeaten 92 in the third match and 58 in the fourth, and still ended up on the losing side as England’s players all contributed to square the series.
Over in Ireland and the World Cricket League Championship, the hosts were meant to be playing two matches against Afghanistan, but could only manage one because of the wet weather, with the home side prevailing in low-scoring affair at Clontarf, mainly thanks to Ed Joyce’s steady 67 not out.
Australia’s sorry tale of woe in England so far this summer continued on Saturday as they were hammered by eight wickets at Chester-le-Street in the fourth ODI, as Steven Finn blew away their top-order on the way to figures of four for 37. Jonathan Trott and Ian Bell both made comfortable half centuries in the run chase.
The third Test in Sri Lanka began in spicy fashion following overnight rain as the home side inserted the Pakistanis and bowled them out for just 226, with Thisara Perera finding enough away swing to claim four for 63.
It is, though, from the rather sunnier climes of Jamaica that this week’s winner comes. Andre Russell (four for 45 in the opening ODI against New Zealand); Dwayne Smith (65 not out in the same match); and Marlon Samuels (101 not out and two for 46 in the second ODI) can all consider themselves contenders, but Chris Gayle is this week’s deserving winner.
Since coming back from his international exile – a comeback brokered at prime ministerial level in April – following his falling-out with the WICB, he has torn the New Zealand bowlers to shreds in all four matches played so far on their tour of Florida and the Caribbean. His comeback began with a 51-ball 53 in England last month, but really ignited with back-to-back half centuries against the hapless Kiwis at Lauderdale last weekend, before reaching a climax with his 20th ODI century in the second ODI on Saturday.
He had stroked an unbeaten 63 in the opening match, which West Indies won comfortably, but bettered that over the weekend by hitting 125 from only 107 balls to set up the home side’s imposing total of 315 for five. He shared a second-wicket stand of 129 with Marlon Samuels and went past Brian Lara to become his country’s most prolific century maker in the format.
During his exile from national colours, the 32 year-old had traversed the world playing in the various domestic Twenty20 leagues that have sprung up; in as varied locations as Zimbabwe to India. The overwhelming theme was one of success, indeed he finished as easily the highest run-scorer in this season’s Indian Premier League. But, despite many people’s view of him being to the contrary, he missed playing for the West Indies and disliked being viewed by the cricketing world as a mercenary, leading him to reach an uneasy truce with the WICB.
He does, however, seem to have become a better player for his time away and now looks to construct an innings more than he ever did before. He is content to play out two or three overs at the start of an innings, knowing that, with all his power and timing, he will be able to catch up later on. The truest test of his comeback will, of course, come later this month when the Test series against New Zealand begins, but it would be foolish to bet against him scoring a century in at least one of the two Test matches.
© Cricket World 2012
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