With six teams in action in international cricket over the past week, there are plenty of contenders for this week’s Cricket World Player of the Week award.
Pakistan’s ongoing One-Day International series against Sri Lanka produced three notable performers. Last week’s winner Thisara Perera continued his excellent form with the ball by taking four for 42 in the home side’s win in the fourth match – a performance which backed up Kumar Sangakkara’s sublime 97 earlier in their innings of 243 for eight. Azhar Ali then did his best for Pakistan in their reply, carrying his bat for 81, but the visitors were eventually dismissed for just 199.
Over in Harare, in the first match of the hosts’ unofficial triangular Twenty20 series with South Africa and Bangladesh, Hamilton Masakadza led Zimbabwe to what proved to be a match-winning total of 154 for six with a superb knock of 62 from only 35 balls.
However, this week’s award goes to this week’s only centurion. Ian Bell struck 126 from only 117 balls for England in Saturday’s first One-Day International against West Indies at Southampton. It was only the second limited-overs century of his career – his first came in 2007, also 126 at Southampton, this time against India – and included 12 fours and one six.
What is more remarkable than anything is that the 30 year-old may not even have been playing were it not for the controversial retirement of Kevin Pietersen days before the series began. With a career strike rate of 74 from 108 games going into the match, many felt that it should have been Ravi Bopara, Craig Kieswetter or someone else alongside Alastair Cook at the top of England’s batting order, and that Bell had already been given enough chances to impress.
Of course, only time will tell whether this innings by Bell was a true breakthrough one in terms of his One-Day career, or just another false dawn with which his career has been littered with so far. England’s hierarchy clearly hope, with the next Champions League and World Cup in England and Australia respectively, that Bell’s game is suited to opening the batting in those conditions. England fans can only hope that they’re right.
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