Cricket: Ben Stokes’ ‘incredible’ run and a new format in South Africa
It’s been an exciting week for cricket. England won the second Test at Old Trafford, beating West Indies by a margin of 113 runs and ensuring that the series is back in the balance. With yet another match-winning performance, Ben Stokes showed that his value to the side is almost impossible to measure or replicate. His latest tour de force — scoring 254 runs and taking 3 wickets — ensured that he rose to the top of the ICC’s Test all-rounder rankings.
While the Test was on at Manchester, about 8,500 miles away, in South Africa cricket resumed on July 18, and the country gave the world the game’s newest format — 3TC or 3 team cricket. As the name implies, three teams played in the match, but the format was not like anything anyone has ever seen. Played at the Supersport Park in Centurion, all three teams competed against each other in the same match (yes, you read that right!), with the objective of winning a gold medal.
Victory for England by 113 runs
With a spectacular rebound catch by Ollie Pope at short leg to get Kemar Roach out, England wrapped up a 113-run victory over the West Indies in the second Test of the #raisethebat series at Old Trafford in Manchester on Monday (July 20). It was a riveting contest. Despite losing an entire day due to rain, the hosts won with an hour to spare on the fifth day. With this victory, England levelled the three-match Test series 1–1.
In both innings, it was one man who made the difference — Ben Stokes. He greatness was on display yet again. He was centre stage for most of the game. His contrasting batsmanship in both innings, plus three key wickets, made the Man of the Match award a formality.
In the first innings, on days one and two, Stokes showed enormous restraint and skill and scored a marathon 176 off 356 deliveries — his slowest Test innings. He took 118 balls to reach his first 50 and then got to his century off 255 balls with a reverse sweep. Towards the end, when his team needed him to accelerate, he switched gears and scored his third 50 off 46 balls.
In the second innings, on Day 5, the New Zealand-born cricketer, came out as an opener, pressed the accelerator harder and scored a quickfire 78 runs in just 56 balls.
With this, the word “dependable” made an entry into the list of all the colourful adjectives that people have so far used to describe Stokes. His skipper, Joe Root, gave him the tag of “Mr Incredible”. “I can’t think of a better one. He probably looks a bit like the cartoon character, too,” Root said about Stokes, while adding that his players are “in the presence of greatness”.
One can’t help but feel bad for the West Indies though. They did almost everything right till late on day four when Stuart Broad’s spell in the second innings turned things around for England.
In South Africa, an unusual format
Meanwhile, 24 cricketers took the field in South Africa to take part in Solidarity Cup, a charity event to raise funds for the COVID-19 pandemic. Branded 3T Cricket, big names such as AB de Villiers and Quinton de Kock took part in the event. Kagiso Rabada and Chris Morris were due to play, but pulled out at the last minute due to personal reasons.
The cricketers were divided into three teams of eight players each. The sides were named Eagles, Kites and Kingfishers. They played for 36 overs, which was split into two halves. Each side got the opportunity to bat for 12 overs, facing six overs each from the other two teams. In other words, the match had six innings.
As per rules, if a batting team loses seven wickets, the ‘not-out’ batsman will continue batting alone but can only score runs in even numbers such as two, four and six. However, if a team loses their first seven wickets in the first six overs of their innings, their innings will end immediately and the non-striker will not get to continue his innings.
The team with the most runs will be awarded gold. If two sides are on level, they will play a super-over. However, if all the teams end on the same total, all of them will be given gold. If the second and third teams are level, both will get silver.
Sounds a bit confusing? Well, it is! After the match, I tried explaining the concept to someone, but failed. So, the rules need to be made a bit simpler.
For me, it was like watching a gully Test match. When we were young and had limited time on our hands, this used to be our idea of Test cricket. We used to play just for fun and novelty.
Nevertheless, it was an interesting concept. It’s great that Cricket South Africa is trying out this new format. AB de Villiers scored 61 off 24 balls. Though he retired from international cricket in 2018, he’s still got it!
The match also reminded me of an idea Sachin Tendulkar had floated few years ago — dividing and ODI match into two innings of 25 overs each.
At the international level, I don’t think the format is here to stay. But since the match was played in an empty stadium, it is difficult to say if the format has the potential to attract crowds. As long as this format is for charity, it’s fun. But no matter what the format is, ABD will just come out and hit ’em out of the park. Just hope that he changes his mind and decides to throw his hat in the ‘international cricket’ ring again.
Will West Indies create history after 32 years?
In a few hours from now, England and West Indies face off in the third and final #raisethebat Test at Emirates Old Trafford — the same venue where the second Test was played. Only two stadiums — Ageas Bowl and Emirates Old Trafford — were selected for this series as ‘bio-secure’ venues due to their on-site hotels and COVID-19 testing and screening facilities.
What can Stokes possibly have up his sleeve as an encore? Still being troubled by a quad issue, there is a possibility that he may not be risked as a bowler, but that hardly diminishes his value to the side. Jofra Archer, who was dropped from the second Test following a breach of bio-secure protocol, is back in the England squad.
For the West Indies, though their captain has now officially dipped to №2 in the ICC’s all-rounder rankings, Jason Holder’s value will be of even greater importance to his team in this final contest, not to mention his quietly authoritative leadership.
The West Indies have won four of their last seven Tests against England since their famous run-chase at Headingley in 2017. But since 1988, when they handed the hosts a 4–0 thrashing — a miserable series for England where they had 4 captains — the Caribbean outfit hasn’t won a series in England.
Apart from the Wisden Series, even crucial World Test Championship points are on the line. England are currently third in the table, behind India and Australia, while West Indies are at №7 of the nine teams involved, having registered their first point after winning the first Test of the ongoing series.
With so much at stake, the familiar foes are sure to take it down to the wire.