Fletcher helps Superstars to huge win
Superstars 173 for 4 (Fletcher 90*) beat Middlesex 115 by 58 runs
The Stanford Superstars sent out a major warning to England ahead of Saturday's main event as they swept aside Middlesex by 58 runs. Five matches into the tournament and at last there was an innings where the batsmen dominated or, more accurately, one batsman as Andre Fletcher sped to a career-best unbeaten 90 with the Superstars racking up 173 for 4, comfortably the highest total of the week. Middlesex didn't threaten to get close.
Fletcher, who has four one-day internationals under his belt, secured his place in the US$20 million match with a superb display of cleaning hitting. It was finally a taste of what Twenty20 cricket is meant to be about - boundaries. Fletcher managed seven sixes off his own bat as the Superstars collected 14 in the innings. Ahead of the match the outfield had been given a close-cropping to try and increase the number of boundaries, but the way Fletcher, Kieron Pollard and Sylvester Joseph connected the length of the grass didn't matter.
One of Fletcher's sixes sailed out of the ground as he reached fifty off 45 balls, and the eye-catching aspect of his batting was the majority of his biggest hits were from authentic shots, not slogs. Fletcher wasn't on his own in managing some massive blows as Joseph launched one effort which carried over 100 metres in the stands.
Fletcher kept battering the Middlesex bowlers, taking 10 off two balls from Steven Finn in the penultimate over to give him an outside chance of a century. But the final-over glory went to Pollard who crashed Tyron Henderson's first three balls onto the grass banks. The Superstars showed the value of not panicking if the early rate isn't electric: after nine overs they were 51 for 2 and the last five overs produced 69 runs.
It was a far better innings for the young stars than their more famous colleagues. Chris Gayle collected a second-ball duck, while Shivnarine Chanderpaul also failed to spend much time in the middle and Ramnaresh Sarwan lofted down to long-on against Shaun Udal.
Gayle's failure leaves him short of practice ahead of the match against England having missed the first warm-up against Trinidad and Tobago to visit ill family members. However, he can count himself unlucky after receiving a horrid grubber from Tim Murtagh, which barely rose above ankle height and would have taken middle stump.
Asad Rauf, the umpire, asked for confirmation from the TV official as to whether the ball pitched on leg stump - which was swift in arriving - and again called in the services of his colleague to determine Chanderpaul's bottom edge.
However, curiously there was no evidence from Hotspot, but Simon Taufel gave the decision based on a sound from the stump microphone and Eldine Baptiste, the Superstars coach, confirmed Chanderpaul "got a thin one". But despite the early breakthroughs Middlesex couldn't keep control and missed Murali Kartik, who had gone back to India, in the middle overs.
The county had the batting talent to make a decent fist of the chase, but needed a solid start. Daren Powell made sure it didn't eventuate as he dislodged Ed Joyce with a short ball into the body, which was deflected down into the stumps. Another aspect of the Superstars' performance was their impressive fielding and Rayad Emrit took a sharp caught-and-bowled chance to remove Neil Dexter.
Middlesex briefly rallied with a stand of 36 between their two best Twenty20 players, Eoin Morgan and Dawid Malan, but Morgan scooped Darren Sammy's first ball straight to short fine-leg. To cap off a fine team effort Sarwan, not always the fleetest-foot of fielders, sprinted to his left to hold a full-length catch at deep midwicket to remove Ben Scott.
The Superstars showed they have all the bases covered, now all they need to do is repeat this performance on Saturday for a million dollars each. No pressure, lads.
Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo