Monday 29 December 2008

The Inaugural OB Innings Of The Year Award

'It's not how, it's how many' goes the old maxim. The old maxim is wrong. It is how, it's always been how. Yesterday Ricky Ponting made 99 at the MCG as the Australian empire entered its last days. He burned with power and aggression for his first innings hundred, but this was something different, something more noble. As he walked off, ghosts trailed behind him. How many didn't really matter: nothing became him more than the manner of his leaving.

Another example. In Adelaide, Iain O'Brien went in with his team 131-8, 134 runs away from making Australia bat again. When he was out 50 runs later, he'd been involved in the highest partnership of the innings, and he'd batted for longer than almost all of of New Zealand's top order. He made 0. How many was it worth? How well did he bat?

Neither of these is the inaugural Old Batsman Innings of the Year, an entirely arbitrary award of dubious logic consisting only of innings I've seen. But both contain its spirit. Traditionally, the ultimate test of a batsman is to play an unbeaten hand in the final innings of a Test, and the year had two true epics: Graeme Smith's 154* at Edgbaston and Sachin Tendulkar's 103* in Chennai. Both laid bogeymen to rest; Smith rode his luck - he was out at least twice, and Tendulkar reigned himself in to a degree he'd never managed before.

Smith made another ton in the last innings in Perth, a truer knock than Edgbaston, and AB de Villiers did too. AB's came on the back of his captain's and so it finished the slightest notch below Smith and Sachin. 

Virender Sehwag, the world's most misunderstood batsman, copped the man of the match award for his 83 in Chennai, and for once he didn't deserve it. He set up the win, but Sachin won it. He produced another statistical marvel, 319, again in the arid paradise that is Chennai. It was a Herculean feat mitigated by the fact that 1498 runs were scored for the loss of 25 wickets in an endless draw. The most defiant Indian innings of the year came from Anil Kumble, 45* in the powderkeg of Sydney. Australia might not beat India again for some time.

JP Duminy announced himself with 166 in Melbourne, Ian Bell deceived with 199 against South Africa at Lord's. Sourav Ganguly made his prince's exit with a ton in Mumbai and two Englishmen saved their careers, Andrew Strauss with 177 in Napier and Paul Collingwood, perennial drinker in the last chance saloon, with 135 at Edgbaston.

KP made more Test hundreds than anyone except Graeme Smith, and none were more inevitable than the 152 in his first Test against South Africa or the 100 at the Oval in his first Test as captain. Viv Richards used to score hundreds on demand too. 

But 2008 was when the shape of cricket changed. The IPL, with its effortless sense of occasion, altered everything from bank balances to the international calendar. It's partly the reason why England went back to India after Mumbai. It's a political and social force and the sheer vitality of its format has changed batting for the better. 

In England, Graham Napier got a warp-factor T20 152 which made a permanent demarkation between hitting and slogging. And then, in the IPL's opening match, Brendan McCullum played its totemic innings, an innings that made the tournament's failure improbable, if not impossible.

His 158 from 73 balls came with 13 sixes and 10 fours at a strike rate of 216.43. Here was batting for the 21st century; heightened, spectacular, extreme, a nailed-on ratings winner. 

With his 158, McCullum offered a fully realised vision of the future, and for that, the innings of the year is his. 


Damith S. said...

a great post again TOB.

and an interesting winner.

i would have gone for smiths 158 personally

im not a fan of 2020 or the ipl.
but mccullums innings was something out of this world- futuristic as you mentioned.

things wont ever be the same in cricket after this year.

Anonymous said...

2008 has been a good year of cricket. It has been the year where many youngsters have promised - Hashim Amla, Gautam Gambhir, Ajantha Mendis,JP Duminy, Brendon Nash. We have seen a record number of people going past 1000 runs this calendar year.

Sachin's and Smith's were wonderful knocks in the 4th innings. AB de Villiers displayed awesome temparament to guide SA home in Perth, something i haven't seen him do before. My personal choice is Duminy's 166, considering the situation when he walked in and the composure he displayed.

Anonymous said...

We've really been spoiled for choice this year. While Smith, de Villiers, Duminy, Sachin, Ponting and Prince have all played innings that epitomize the determined test centurion, KP, Sehwag, and McCullum have taken that bold step forward that marks the definition of a new era.
I honestly can't pick any one of the many brilliant innings that have been played this year, but if I had to Chanderpaul's 62 n.o against Sri Lanka where he sealed the game with a 4 and six off the last two balls would rank among the best

The Old Batsman said...

Good shouts. Can't argue really. Smith and his team are genuinely admirable now.

Had forgotten that Chanderpaul knock, but remember it now - improbable but all the better for it!

Kartikeya Date said...

A beautiful post. The original premise is wonderful in that it is how, and not simply how many runs are made.

I must confess that i remain skeptical of T20, and especially of the chance ridden innings that it produces.

I would vote for a few centuries in the year which weren't in your list - Sehwag's 151 at Adelaide, Hayden's 2nd innings century at Sydney (a brilliant effort, possibly the best of the year) and any of Chanderpaul's steely efforts.

How about Chanderpaul's spectacular 4 and 6 of the last two balls at Port of Spain to beat Sri Lanka when West Indies had needed 10 of 2..

Its a wonderful post.... but i must disagree with the pedestal you have built for T20. In my view it does not belong amidst all the other batting master classes.

The Old Batsman said...

Cheers Kartikeya,

I knew I'd forget some! I think next year we'll be back to test batting as the true marker - just in the year the IPl changed the game it probably seemed more significant. Can't argue with your choices though!

Anonymous said...

Lol; McCullum finally gets an award.

Guess how many international centuries he has against recognised opposition…

Henry said...

This award show was so interesting and enjoyed watching it. I was shocked when McCullum was announced. Now it's time to avail chauffeur coventry for more information.