When Shivnarine Chanderpaul got hit in the back of his head by a Brett Lee bouncer in the Jamaica Test, he fell like a sack of potatoes. For about a couple of minutes he lay still, as a concerned Lee ran over, in the stands Chanderpaul's wife Amy cried, and Tony Cozier suggested on air that he might be unconscious. Then he slowly stirred, and the crowd came back to life as he put his arm-guard and gloves on and went back to batting.
The next over he faced, Lee ran in and bowled another bouncer first up. Chanderpaul ducked it, and then another, and then pulled one for a couple. The other Australian bowlers bowled their share of short ones, and while some might have complained about that, one can be sure Chanderpaul wouldn't have: pity is an emotion he never evokes.
He was on 86 when he was felled, with eight wickets down. As he went on to get to his century with a straight drive past Stuart Clark, a relieved Amy beamed in the stands, and the crowd went mad. Chanderpaul continued to chip away at Australia's first-innings total and was the last man out for 118.
On an up-and-down pitch he was deadly accurate, sending down dot ball after dot ball, with the occasional wicked legcutter or inswinger for variety. After the batsmen had negotiated the pace of the opening bowlers, he came on and started hitting that tricky area just short of a length, getting the ball to seam and swing either way. When he beat a batsman, he didn't despair - merely smiled at him, as if to let him know he could get him whenever he pleased. And when he did get one, he didn't go crazy in celebration, just smirked; the batsman knew he had been had. No, not Glenn McGrath in the IPL, but his heir in the Australian Test team, Stuart Clark, bowling West Indies to submission in Jamaica. He took out West Indies' top three in both innings, and ended with 8 for 91 and the Man-of-the-Match award.
All through the nineties, if there was a given in limited-overs cricket it was the impossibility of scoring more than a run a ball against Wasim Akram. The whippy, quick arm action could deliver devastating yorkers out of nowhere, and if the batsmen had any sort of back-lift - which is necessary when you're going for quick runs - they were sitting ducks.
Sohail Tanvir, with an action so quick he seems to be bowling off the wrong foot, has been giving batsmen the horrors all over again in the IPL, producing at will yorkers that home in unerringly on leg stump. They start swinging late, dip enormously, and if a batsman is lucky he gets to save his toe - if not his wicket - as right-hand batsmen Debabrata Das and Manish Pandey discovered recently.
A chilly Old Trafford is hardly a prospect to excite spinners - unless your name happens to be Monty Panesar. But it was Daniel Vettori who struck first in what turned out to be an extraordinary run for slow left-armers in the second Test. He bowled 31 tight overs in England's first innings, using the dangerous arm-ball to good effect, extracting purchase from the surface. The delivery accounted for Michael Vaughan and Paul Collingwood, while Kevin Pietersen, Tim Ambrose and Ryan Sidebottom fell prey to the flighted ones.
Then it was Panesar's turn. Vaughan introduced him as early as the ninth over of New Zealand's second innings and he struck with a straight one in his third over. When he struck again, with an arm-ball to trap James Marshall, he triggered the collapse of the month: seven wickets fell for 29 as Panesar went past 100 Test wickets, taking his third five-for in as many Tests at Old Trafford. Appropriately, in the second innings Vettori's figures read 35-7-111-1, as England chased successfully and won the battle of the left-armers.
The New Zealand players had to leave the IPL midway for the Tests in England, but some of them carried on where they had left off. Call it muscle memory but on the first morning of the series Ross Taylor, after having scored 19 off 19, holed out off horrible pull. The shot drew gasps of scandalised disbelief from the Lord's crowd. Geoff Boycott, commentating on Test Match Special was especially unimpressed. Taylor continued in much the same vein in the second Test, where it all came together much better for him as he scored 154 not out off 176 balls, hitting 17 fours and five sixes.
The Twenty20 spirit worked well and truly for New Zealand in the first Test when Brendon McCullum chose to counterattack after a top-order collapse. When New Zealand lost their fifth wicket at 104, McCullum had scored 32 off 44 balls - a fair pace, but he then shifted into a higher gear to finish with 97 off 97, hitting 13 boundaries and two sixes in all. New Zealand's innings ended at 277, and in a rain-shortened match it was enough to secure a draw.
Daniel Flynn was playing only his second Test when he missed a vicious bouncer from James Anderson at Old Trafford. The ball went through the grill and hit him in the teeth. As he took the helmet off, he spat blood, and a couple of teeth, onto the pitch. The blow was sickening in more ways than one: Flynn endured a sleepless night of nausea and vomiting. And though he wanted to go back out and bat, the nausea kept returning - though a neurosurgeon ruled there was no concussion. He couldn't bat in the second innings either, as New Zealand lost their strangle hold over the Test, collapsing from 85 for 2 to 114 for 9.
Ricky Ponting hadn't had the right preparation going into the West Indies tour. His 39 runs in four IPL matches included two golden ducks. But come the first Test of the series, on a tricky pitch in Jamaica, he ticked all the boxes a good innings needs to tick, most importantly the one that says "made batting look easy while everyone else struggled". At 37 for 2, Ponting found himself in the middle of one of the most impressive shows by the West Indies fast bowlers in recent times. Australia needed a special innings and Ponting delivered just that. His 158 came at a strike-rate of more than 70, and such was his domination that Australia had reached only 293 when he got out.
Few men would have got a hand to this one, let alone done what Andrew Symonds did. Fielding at short cover in the Jamaica Test, Symonds reacted superbly to Ramnaresh Sarwan's leading edge. The ball flew high to Symonds' left and he jumped and knocked it down with his right hand, and then, as both ball and he came down, turned around in the landing to complete the catch with both hands. What made it sweeter was that it ended the only partnership worth the name from the West Indies top order in the second innings.
The Perfect Ten
In an ICC World Cricket League Division 5 league match, Mahaboob Alam, a left-arm swing bowler from Nepal, tormented Mozambique's batsmen to produce bowling figures of 7.5-1-12-10. After Nepal put up a healthy 238 for 7 in their 50 overs, Alam took over to run through. He was on a hat-trick on three occasions, and took the last four wickets in six balls. Nine of the Mozambique batsmen didn't score a run, five were bowled, four given out lbw, and Kaleem Shah top-scored with 9 - one more than the extras.
The IPL produced some tight games, including the final, but of the games played in May none were closer than the two last-ball finishes that the Mumbai Indians ended on the wrong side of. Had they won either game, Mumbai would have made it to the semi-finals.
Chasing 189 against Punjab at the Wankhede Stadium, Mumbai looked set after Sanath Jayasuriya got them off to a flier and Sachin Tendulkar consolidated beautifully with a 46-ball 65. But they then contrived to collapse, and went into the last over needing 19. That's when the No. 8, Siddharth Chitnis, made the most of a waist-high full-toss and a dropped chance to bring it down to nine off four. Two run-outs followed, and Mumbai needed four off two. The fifth ball was hit back to VRV Singh who, as the batsmen went for a single, shied at the stumps and gave away an extra run. Needing one to tie, the No. 11, Vikrant Yeligati, could only hit to Yuvraj at short cover, who ran into the stumps, Jonty Rhodes-style, to seal the match for Punjab.
Defending 145 on a slow and low track in Jaipur, the Mumbai bowlers had sent all the big Rajasthan guns back for 77, but then the intensity dropped, misfields crept in, and Neeraj Patel and Ravindra Jadeja took the match to the last over. Needing 11 off the last four, Patel hit Dilhara Fernando for a six, but the decisive moment came courtesy Fernando. After having pulled the game back, and brought it down to three off the last ball, he delivered a wide. And off the final legitimate deliver he misfielded, and as the batsmen went for the impossible second, Jayasuriya made a mess of an average return, failing to run Jadeja out.