Shah gives exhibition in placement over power
Owais Shah's magical 55 took England to a five-wicket win in the second and final Twenty20 against West Indies at The Oval to square the series. Importantly, a couple of pieces of England's one-day jigsaw showed signs of slotting into place ahead of the three-match one-day series too.
Shah's knock was an exercise in control, placement and guile - which is pretty much what you expect from him. However, the pressure this evening at a packed Oval was sufficient to test even the most experienced batsman, let alone one so green. With his captain, yesterday's nearly-man Paul Collingwood departing, Shah was left with an asking-rate spiralling beyond 10-per-over. However, 16 runs off one Marlon Samuels over tipped the balance in England's favour, and they squeezed home in the gloomy light with three balls to spare.
"Yes, I've been wanting to play this type of innings for a while, especially in the one-day side," Shah said, "and I'm obviously delighted. It's just great getting the opportunity; I'm just taking it a game at a time, and trying to do well for England. If that leads to a permanent spot, then that couldn't be more perfect."
He appears to have been around for ever. A former England Under-19 captain who drew comparisons with Mark Ramprakash, such was the extremity of his talent, Shah's England career - not unlike Ramprakash's, again - has yet to blossom. He hasn't had a long run in the side, a factor which continues to frustrate him.
"Yes. Of course it has. I'd like to play [more] for England; it's difficult coming in [having played] a game here and a game there. It would be brilliant to have a lot of games but sometimes things don't quite work out in your favour."
Looking more closely at Shah's innings, it reveals plenty about not only Twenty20's over-obsession with powerful strikers, but the impact a deft player can have. Yes, he clobbered the odd vaguely ugly four but the seven boundaries he guided were often just that: deftly placed into the gap, or unorthodoxly swept down to fine-leg. It was an innings of placement over power which, in the frenzy of Twenty20 cricket, is a rarity to be cherished. Success in the condensed format is, according to Shah, not solely about the wrists and placement.
"I find you don't have to adjust your game; you've got to adjust your thinking," he said. "People think that twenty overs isn't that long but, actually, it is and if you can get your head around that then it makes life a lot easier. That's what i've found for Middlesex, having played Twenty20 cricket for them over the past two or three years, that you realise you have more time than you think."
Try telling Collingwood that. His hangdog expression when he was expertly stumped by Denesh Ramdin rather suggested England were heading for a 2-0 series defeat. But, unsurprisingly, Collingwood spoke proudly of recording his first win as England captain, citing his team's ability to learn as a crucial factor.
"I don't think we were too far [off] last night. There were a lot of good things - our intent, we were so positive to get close to a massive total and it showed we were fighters. But certainly we improved with the ball tonight. And for them to go out, after just 24 hours, and choose the right balls, was excellent."
It's a fickle game, though. A win is a win but, as he himself said, England won't be getting carried away just yet. Their one-day road ahead is long and arduous but, as Shah showed tonight, there is plenty of talent: all they need is experience.
Will Luke is a staff writer on Cricinfo