Stanford Superstars v England

Stanford 20/20 for 20 2008-09

Scyld Berry

November 1, 2008 (floodlit). Stanford Superstars won by ten wickets. Toss: England.


The drinks are on us: the Stanford Superstars celebrate their victory, Superstars v England, Antigua, November 1, 2008
The drinks are on us: The Stanford Superstars celebrate victory © AFP
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"It's all about pressure," coach Peter Moores said before the most lucrative cricket match ever played, and England succumbed to it. They had the considerable advantage of winning the toss and batting first (only twice had they chased successfully in Twenty20 internationals), but their batsmen proceeded to take high-risk options when the plan had been to work the ball around and keep wickets in hand.

The Superstars were nervous too in the first few overs: Sammy and Mohammed misfielded, Taylor fumbled a run-out chance, and England reached 20 in the fourth over. But Gayle then exerted a soothing influence, Powell bowled four fiery overs straight through, and England were 43 for four at halfway after Bell had stepped back and outside-edged a yorker into his stumps, and Prior and Pietersen had walked to the off side and been bowled behind their legs. The left-armer Benn, bowling from wide of the crease, and Pollard, with his off-cutters, kept England tied down, and the Superstars dropped only one catch (offered by Patel) when the middle order tried to hit out. Mohammed's chinaman bowling - a form of attack England normally struggle to read - was not even used.

To defend 100, England had to take every chance going, but they missed a run-out first ball when Patel shied on the run from square leg with time to set himself. Another wicket might have fallen in the same over but, when Rudi Koertzen referred an lbw appeal to TV umpire Steve Davis, Gayle was reprieved because the ball - to be precise, the centre of it - pitched outside leg stump.

Thereafter he and Fletcher, more physical than the England opening pair, took the bowling by the scruff to mass enthusiasm from the capacity crowd of 10,000. England's strategy was back-of-a-length pace - the swingers Anderson and Sidebottom had been omitted - and Plan A did not work. Gayle pulled Harmison's short ball for six and drove his yorker for six in an over that cost 22, while Fletcher weighed in with some baseballstyle hits over the off-side field. England had never bowled more than five overs of spin in Twenty20 internationals, and they weren't going to embark on Plan B now. Gayle, as if he hadn't been stylish enough already, finished the game by pull-driving his 45th ball for six to illustrate that some of the power, panache and passion of West Indian cricket had been revived.

Man of the Match: D. J. G. Sammy.

© John Wisden & Co.
 
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