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The Australia captain was probably the only one who thought giving Xavier Doherty the last over against Chris Gayle and Kieron Pollard wasn't a mistake
October 5, 2012
George Bailey and Xavier Doherty have known each other since they were kids. Tonight Bailey tested that friendship by throwing Doherty into a vat of acid to see if he could swim. Doherty was demolished.
There was no one other than Bailey who thought bowling Doherty in that last over was anything other than a colossal mistake. West Indies had the two people in world cricket most likely to eat Doherty alive with the bat in their hands. They were well set, relaxed, already had a big total, and had cartoon drool coming out of their mouths as Doherty held the ball at the top of his mark.
Doherty's first two overs had gone for 23, it was probably his worst bowling performance of the tournament already, and now he had six balls at Pollard and Gayle when they only had one thing on their minds, how far they could hit him.
To his credit, Doherty looked reasonably calm as he walked up. There was no reason to be calm. The score was already 180, and Australia had only taken three wickets. He and Bailey placed the field carefully, although it seemed like a waste of time even then.
The first ball was a disaster. It couldn't have been worse. A finger-spinner bowling a knee-high full toss to Chris Gayle is like throwing a cabbage at Swamp Thing. Gayle just hit it. He's been hitting full tosses for six since he grew fingernails in the womb. Sometimes you hear the commentators say that low full tosses can be really hard to get away. They don't mean this kind; this kind is hit for six by players who don't hit sixes. Gayle smashed it.
Brad Hogg had been the pick of the spinners in this match, he had an over left. David Hussey was quite often used at the death, he had two overs left. It's doubtful whether any other captain would have thrown the ball to Doherty, or found a situation where he thought it was the right thing to do. Doherty is good at the start, against South Africa he set up the match with the new ball. He slides the new ball well, and gets just enough purchase to make the batsmen worry. At the end he seems like a less-viable candidate as he has little mystery and seems to come onto the bat really well.
The next ball had to be something special, it had to land to begin with. It had to be out of Gayle's arc and it had to stay on the playing surface. Doherty showed that he was calm and good enough to bowl the finger-spinner's trusty retort, the fired-in one at the pads. Gayle couldn't smash it, he couldn't do much with it at all, he just let it hit his pad and limp a single.
In normal life, and for large parts of the rest of the innings, Gayle being off strike had been Australia's dream. It seemed much of their tactic was simply to keep him from being on strike. Considering Gayle had batted the entire 19.2 overs, and the score wasn't 300, it had worked. But now Kieron Pollard was in. Pollard is someone who can look rubbish at the start of any tournament or series, but then he warms up. Considering he often struggles against real pace, and he'd just driven a 150km yorker for four and scooped another one straight over his head, it was quite clear he was the Killer Kieron, not the Pillock Pollard.
Doherty went straight at him on a length, probably thinking he could slip one through him. As he saw Pollard get down on one knee, he must have even thought he'd got under the bat on a pitch where the spinners had kept the odd ball low. Instead Pollard slogged it hard to midwicket, flat and dangerous. Hogg came around, and flung his hand at it, but was probably lucky it didn't take his hand for six as well.
This was now horrible for Doherty. Much like in Adelaide.
Doherty's often been thought of as a good limited-overs bowler, but many were shocked when he was brought into the Australian Test squad. The man had a stutter ball, was often calm under pressure and had good control, but nothing about him screamed Test bowler. He was clearly brought in as the left-arm equivalent of Nathan Haurtiz, a stocker bowler who could keep the run-rate down.
In Adelaide, Kevin Pietersen ruined that theory. Pietersen looked like he wanted to take out all his previous bad-form frustration and problems with losing the captaincy out on Doherty. It was brutal punishment, and the one thing Doherty was supposed to do, he couldn't. Pietersen was simply too good, too aggressive, and Doherty was yanked from attack between the 65th to the 103rd over. Bowling between overs 65 to 80 was one of the main reasons he was in the side in the first place.
Yet again he had a KP tormenting him. And his fourth ball was a low full toss, the one that is supposed to be hard to hit. Pollard hit it hard. He cleared long-off with it. West Indies had now scored 19 runs off the over, and were 199.
Doherty's over was now beyond horrible, and there were still two balls left. Doherty bowled seam when he was a kid, and he resorted to what seamers do when the batsmen is hitting them everywhere. Full and straight. Perhaps Pollard moved back in the crease, maybe Doherty missed the blockhole by an inch or two, but Pollard just blew it away for another six.
The West Indies had now jumped the magical 200-mark. Even the superhuman Shane Watson would struggle to get Australia there. The last ball from Doherty was much like when he took the wicket of KP in Adelaide, it meant nothing; all the damage was done, and would be replayed for years to come. Pollard slicing the ball to long-off was not a victory for Australia, Doherty or Bailey; it was just a chance to leave the field.
By the time Bailey was next involved in the game, Australia could not win the match. Bailey played perhaps his best innings for Australia. It showed guts, determination, took a swipe at his many detractors and was the only reason Australia made it to triple-figures. There was proper anger in his batting, he really wanted to make a mark. It was also like screaming at a hurricane.
For Doherty there was no fightback, saving grace or moral victory; he was simply the victim. The only screams for Doherty were screams of laughter from the people who've never had to bowl the last over of an innings at two of nature's perfect killers while the cricket world watches.
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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