Fri | Jul 28, 2017

A lovely, typical Kanhai innings

Published:Sunday | August 10, 2014 | 8:00 AM
Andre Russell of the Jamaica Tallawahs hitting a six off the last ball to win the Caribbean Premier League match against the Guyana Amazon Warriors at Sabina Park on Saturday, August 2. - Ian Allen/Staff Photographer

Tony Becca, Contributor

Last Sunday was a wonderful day. It was a day when every cricketer, or every cricket fan, must have been happy, and very happy at that.

Cricket was playing, a lot of good players were in action, and Sabina Park was full, almost to capacity. It was like the good old days all over again.

It was match number three in the Caribbean Premier League in Jamaica. The park was crowded on all three days but not as much as it was on Sunday, the day after the fans got their money's worth in an amazing finish.

It was a match which Jamaica looked like losing right up to the last over when they needed 13 runs to win.

Fortunately for them, big Andre Russell was at the crease, they scampered a few singles, and with two deliveries to go, with 10 runs to win the game and the fat lady waiting to sing, the mercurial Russell, the acrobatic fielder, slammed a four followed by six.

That display of raw power, and the result, were probably what made the difference in the size of the crowd on Sunday when Jamaica matched their performance on Saturday with a comfortable victory over Barbados Tridents.

For days after Russell's exploits, the fans were still talking about it, just as they spoke about Darren Bravo's last-ball six to win an earlier match for the Trinidad and Tobago Red Steel against the Guyana Anazon Warriors.

And they were both thrilling finishes.

Both of them, however, reminded me of another day, and another match in a different format of the game.

It was 2008, it was a 50-over game, the West Indies were playing Sri Lanka at Queen's Park Oval, and, nine wickets down, they were losing the match as Shivnarine Chanderpaul timed his assault.

It came down to the last two deliveries, the West Indies needed 10 runs to win the match, the fans were crestfallen, and Chanderpaul, little Chanderpaul, simply smashed a four and a six to win the match.

He walked away smiling, as if to say, "What's the problem? It was easy."

I remembered also listening on another day and later about an innings by Rohan 'Bhoolalall' Kanhai.

It was 1963, it was a Test match, the West Indies were playing England at The Oval and they were going for a win when Kanhai walked to the wicket.

Ian Woolridge, a distinguished English cricket writer for the Daily Mail, a European Sportswriter of the Year, wrote in his book, Cricket, Lovely Cricket:

"For England, had they known then the monstrous savaging that was about to burst upon them, the dismissal of Rodriquez might have been a matter almost for regret; for phase two, the coming of Kanhai brought fearful, faithful retribution.

UNPREDICTABLE PERFORMER

"Kanhai, the tiny, totally unpredictable performer, he flitted in and out of the preceding pages of this book like some exotic moth, here glitteringly brilliant and there sleepily disinterested in all around him. Today, he came to say farewell as only he conceivably could, 77 runs in an hour and a half with shots fit to lay before an audience of emperors.

"He started with a supreme glance down to long leg, and then stroke by stroke went round the compass until he was lashing an unstoppable ball just wide of slips.

"He had given Hunte a start of two and a half hours and had caught him in 40 minutes. The stroke which brought their scores level was his famous falling hook. He was lying full length in the batting crease as the ball crashed down some 40 yards beyond the boundary.

"It was his last runs of the season. Trying a still more audacious shot, he was caught knee-high by Bolus running around at deep midwicket. He went out laughing hugely. This was the most valedictory innings of the summer."

It was an innings of which three renowned cricket writers of the day, Brian Johnson, Crawford White, and John Woodcock, claimed they had never seem better, and of which the incomparable C. L. R. James wrote:

"Kanhai had found his way into regions Bradman never knew. It was not the technical skills and strategic generalship that made the innings the most noteworthy I have seen. There was more to it, to be seen as well as felt. Bradman was a ruthless executioner of bowlers. All through that demanding innings Kanhai grinned a grin that could be seen a mile away."

I met Woolridge in the press boxes of England in 1976. We were seated next to each other at Lord's, and I enjoyed his company, in England and in the West Indies, for many years after that, and I met James a few years earlier, in the press box at Port of Spain, Trinidad in 1974.

I wish I had seen that innings by Kanhai, just as I am sure fans of tomorrow will wish they had witnessed that four and that six by Chanderpaul, and also Russell's fireworks. It must have been one for all the ages, a gem, and one to remember.