Kieron Pollard's decision to play T20 for Somerset rather than go on a West Indies A Tour split opinion. Last night's game against Essex at Taunton proved why he was right in the space of an over.
Chasing 177, Pollard went in with Somerset 99-1 after 10 and cruising. Danish Kaneria, by any standards a world-class bowler, came on. Pollard swatted his first ball for six over long on, and levered the second almost over the pavilion. A dot ball followed before Pollard played the most extraordinary shot, a nonchalant lift of his arms that sent the ball out of the ground and into the car park.
You can always tell when a player does something special by the reaction of the other players. Behind the sticks, James Foster's expression was classic, quizzical disbelief mixed with bruised ego. Danish came in again - this time it was the flipper, quick and straight. Pollard was utterly defeated by it, his bat not even down by the time his stumps were knocked back.
My hero as a kid was the nonpareil, BA Richards. Many times I combed his book - functionally titled The Barry Richards Story [you should have let me write it, Barry - it would have been called Bad Bas And His Bad-Ass Life] - and always enjoyed the anecdote about him clobbering Richie Benaud and strutting cockily about the crease before Richie undid him with the flipper too. It was a lesson he carried with him for the rest of his career.
Pollard made 21 from eight balls. When he was out, Somerset were 122-2 after 12.5 overs. They should have walked home. They lost. No doubt, in the dressing room, it was pointed out where things went wrong.
This is the true value of a competitive environment. Never mind the format, the ground was full, the TV cameras were there and Pollard was schooled by a proper bowler. I'd bet he'll have learned more in a over about the nature of the game than he might on an entire tour of A team cricket.