Ireland v West Indies, World T20 2012, Group B, Colombo September 24, 2012

Maturing Narine stays one step ahead

Sunil Narine didn't rely on mystery to defeat Ed Joyce, nor even on big turn. He cornered the batsman into surrendering his wicket - a hallmark of a maturing spinner.

On a forgettable night fraught with soggy frustration for fans and disappointment for the exiting team, Sunil Narine produced a piece of cricketing brilliance that will linger with those who were watching closely.

The first rain interruption had shaved two overs from the match, and as soon as play resumed, Darren Sammy brought Narine into the attack. Left-hander Ed Joyce was on strike and Narine opened with a menacing offbreak; whirring through the air unnervingly, dipping, pitching on leg stump and spitting beyond the batsman's prod.

The victory was twofold for Narine. He had the batsman groping already, but there was also turn here, plenty more than there had been on previous evenings. On Saturday he had shaken off indifferent form in the practice matches to send down two good overs against Australia. Had he not overstepped in his second over and the free-hit been sent into the stands, he might have traveled at less than a run-a-ball on a surface favouring batsman.

Joyce didn't come close to hitting that first ball and, like Narine, knew now that the pitch was pulling for the bowler tonight. He also knew that trotting down the wicket might be too big a risk. If the bowler sees him coming, a shorter delivery will take enough turn on this pitch to evade him. Even if Narine didn't anticipate his advance, there would be no room for error. If the first ball was so charged with venom, maybe Narine will become even more difficult to judge in the flight as he warms to his work. Better to stay at home and play it off the turf.

Smelling the batsman's hesitance, Narine pitched another one on leg, only slightly shorter, to give Joyce an even better look at the deviation. The batsman prodded again, and again he did was beaten thoroughly. Ireland's run rate was flagging. With the game shortened and rain in the air, boundaries became more imperative with every dot ball.

Having ruled out going down the track to combat the turn, Joyce decided lateral movement would help him. As the bowler entered his delivery stride, Joyce shuffled towards off stump. This time, he might have hoped, he could get closer to the ball as it turned away from him and play it away through the off side.

Only, it didn't turn away. Perhaps seeing Joyce's movement, or maybe having anticipated it, Narine had gone wide of the crease and pitched the ball outside leg. It wasn't the off-break either, it just went straight on. Once Joyce realised this, it was already too late. His hurried sweep missed, and the ball zipped behind his pads to peg back leg stump.

In three deliveries, Joyce had not been able to get near the ball. Narine was helped by the surface, sure, but when the batsman took measures to negate that turn, Narine was a step ahead. Having set him up with two big offbreaks, he made the batsman look inept with one that barely turned at all. Narine says Muttiah Muralitharan is his idol - and given how much he rips his offbreaks, it's not difficult to see Murali's influence - but that dismissal had a touch of Shane Warne about it. He didn't rely on mystery or even just on big turn; he cornered the batsman into surrendering his wicket - a hallmark of a maturing spinner.

"He's a guy who has got a lot of tricks up his sleeve and always thinks he can learn new stuff," captain Darren Sammy said of Narine after the match. "When you see him practice he's always trying new things. New run-ups, new actions, he just looks to improve his game all the time."

West Indies now move into the Super Eights without having won or completed a full match. Their batting looks as powerful as that of any team in the tournament, but despite a good outing against Ireland, questions remain about their bowling against top opposition. Narine has already proved himself adept at this format, having earned the purple cap in this year's IPL, and perhaps he can be the bowler who quells those fears and propels his side deep into the competition.

"Narine loves when the batsmen are looking to attack him," Sammy said. "With the scoreboard pressure, and the requirement to score quickly in Twenty20, it gives him the edge with all his tricks up his sleeves. The more we progress and the more we play on these wickets, the more assistance it will give him. These are good signs for us going into the Super Eights."

Pallekele will be Narine's next test. It has perhaps been the least spin friendly of the three venues so far, and he will likely have to rely on more of that guile when the West Indies move there for all three Super Eight matches. For now, Narine may get by simply on turn and variations, but in future, opponents will grow accustomed to him. If he maintains his devotion to the spinner's art of the swindle, he might be on track to emulate the longevity he admires so much in his favourite cricketer.

Andrew Fernando is ESPNcricinfo's correspondent in Sri Lanka

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Girish on September 26, 2012, 11:50 GMT

    Y, no 1 talks abt bhajji... even am not a big fan of him, bt he shows he can stil do sme magics on asian piches.. y to carry 7 batsman for 20 over matches whn our top orders are in form execpt Sewang (but am sure he vl do it out in nxt game).. My suggestion is 6 batsman ad 5 bowlers.. In bowlers Ashwin ad Bajji r capable for big shots also thn wat 2 wory.. jus carry on....

  • Sindhu on September 26, 2012, 6:36 GMT

    @ knan.... I don't think Pakistan will cross the super-8. because they have to bet SA,IND,AUS. if not they need to win 2 matches. I don't think they will bet three teams. And i can;'t even say who are favorites in that group. it's a deadly group. Coming best spinner. I think Ajmal & Narine both are awesome. but if the pitch doesn't help them they are not economical, as we in the last day against in Bangladesh match. I think aswin will be the best spinner in all conditions. in practice match against pakistan all the bowlers went for plenty, but he bowled with is brain. as a spinner you need that one. ashwin as that.

  • sam on September 26, 2012, 5:54 GMT

    Narine's biggest strength: his big off-spinner. No batsman has any idea how much it is going to turn. And most of the batsmen can't pick his knuckle ball (the one that turns the other way) as well.

  • naresh on September 26, 2012, 4:06 GMT

    S.narine is best sniper of west indies and also in good form.

  • Wish on September 26, 2012, 3:37 GMT

    dear Mr Fernando...are you trying to say that the great Murali did not corner any batsmen into surrendering their wicket?and only Warne did that?narine knew what he was doing when he picked Murali as his idol...

  • Antonio on September 26, 2012, 2:15 GMT

    In reply to glance to leg, Narine flew from the IPL to make his test debut in England against a No 1 ranked team with in form batsmen. It was his first time playing there and he was not used to the English conditions. He found it difficult to control the ball in the cold and wet conditions. Keep in mind up to that time he had only played 6 first class matches until then It may sound a simple thing but Caribbean people not used to cold conditions cramp up easily and can find it difficult to hold a pen much more a cricket ball. However his performance was not worse than that of Swann who knows English conditions well and is much more experienced. narine is young and still learing his trade.

  • Shawn on September 25, 2012, 22:40 GMT

    @ senthil25

    This trick could well work in a test match, with a plumb lbw on the one that goes the wrong way/straight on/quicker ball. Everyone expects Narine to work miracles, but the truth is he is new to Test cricket and Before England never played at that level. Time to adapt is what he needs and he seems to have the right attitude, so he should continue to improve.

  • Abrar on September 25, 2012, 21:27 GMT

    @glance_to_leg : Narine is an excellent bowler with a lot of variations. He has honed his skills in the shortest form of the game where the onus is on the batsman to attack if he misses scoring of a single ball. Spin bowlers have to rely on deception and planned attacks to be successful. He has a plan for T20's will soon adapt to ODI's and eventually learn the ropes in Tests. In tests the onus is on the bowler to get the batsman out. Some sessions require bowlers to have a containment mode and other times they have to attack. He has a lot to learn but in a couple of years he will be a terror in all forms, thats my guess anyways !

  • Harpreet on September 25, 2012, 21:00 GMT

    @glance_to_leg - If you're referring to the test matches, its because he's not a test bowler. as Sammy says in this article, he's at his best when batsmen try and attack him. There's little doubt he's a great limited overs bowler, but in test cricket, batsmen have the time to defend him and wait for the bad balls. whether or not he can build pressure in test cricket and be successful is for time to tell.

  • haris on September 25, 2012, 18:57 GMT

    Hope Westindies play their natural game all throughout and its good to see their killer instincts getting back.. Narine's a world class bowler and its nice to hear his attitude about playing cricket..

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