Alas, no miracle in Manchester

Updated: Jun 27, 2019, 10:54 IST | Clayton Murzello

Carlos Brathwaite's massive effort against NZ last Saturday was deserving of a win like WI's 1975 World Cup stunner against Pakistan

Alas, no miracle in Manchester
West Indies's Carlos Brathwaite is consoled by New Zealand's senior pro Ross Taylor at the conclusion of their thrilling World Cup game in Old Trafford, Manchester on June 22. Pic/Getty Images

Clayton MurzelloCarlos Brathwaite's thunderous innings against New Zealand at Manchester last week should hopefully change the notion that only victory matters. What also matters is self belief, courage and of course brute force that Brathwaite displayed in exemplary fashion. His hundred very nearly beat an unbeaten New Zealand side in the World Cup.

When the match continued to be in New Zealand's favour, Michael Holding informed his viewers that there are quite a few former West Indies players at the pavilion end of Old Trafford. Two among those were Deryck Murray and Andy Roberts, who starred for West Indies in their 1975 World Cup match against Pakistan at Edgbaston. The West Indies were in a hopeless position then, but the duo put on 64 for the last wicket to reach the 267-run target. The current West Indies team needed an effort like that. West Indies were in the throes of adversity when Brathwaite adopted an ultra-aggressive route. Number nine batsman Kemar Roach walked back to the pavilion with the score reading 211 for eight at the start of the 39th over, still 81 to get with two wickets in hand. Their alliance was worth 47 runs.

Roberts, meanwhile, didn't like what he saw. He was not enjoying the game. "It's a total disaster," he told a friend over Whatsapp. Little did he know his team would come close to winning. Holding said on air that Roberts gets very affected each time West Indies logs in a poor performance. He's tired of telling him not to do so, but he won't listen.

Manchester has been a good venue for the men from the Caribbean over the years. It is here where Viv Richards hit the then highest one-day score of 189 against England in 1984. Off-spin great Lance Gibbs claimed 10 wickets during the 1966 Test where West Indies won by an innings and 40 runs and 10 years later, the ground was the scene of a devastating spell of fast bowling by Holding.

On the third evening, England openers John Edrich (aged 39) and Brian Close (aged 45) took 80 minutes to score 21 and there was not a soul at the ground who didn't believe Close was lucky to be alive after facing up to Holding. In the dressing room, after play, the room attendant asked Close if he'd like something to drink. "Yes, a bottle of whiskey," said Close, who later titled his autobiography, I Don't Bruise Easily.

Roberts claimed nine wickets in the game and could have got the man of the match award, but there was none. Holding was accused of excessive intimidatory bowling, but according to Roberts, the cracks on the track caused the damage.

Back to Saturday's action at Old Trafford. You had to be a very highly optimistic West Indies fan to predict a close game when Jamaican Sheldon Cottrell joined Brathwaite. But then, the burly Barbadian was in the same mood as the 2016 World T20 final against England at Kolkata where his four sixes got West Indies the title.

Tanya Aldred came up with a classic line in her report for The Guardian: "Brathwaite was colossally calm, colossally powerful." Unfortunately for the West Indies, Brathwaite's attempted sixth six ended in the hands of Trent Boult at the long on boundary. It took a super catch to end a superlative innings.

The West Indies were not so unlucky in 1975 when Murray and Roberts did the incredible. But like many in the current team's camp, they felt only a miracle could bring about a win. Victory was achieved on the fourth ball of the 60th over bowled by Wasim Raja. And just like the 47-run eighth wicket stand between Brathwaite and Roach was worth its weight in gold the other day, the 37-run partnership between Vanburn Holder and Murray was a big contributing factor in the miracle at Birmingham.

"Fingers were crossed and a few silent prayers were said but I do not honestly believe any one of us held out much hope of victory. After all, the age of miracles had long gone," wrote Lloyd in Living for Cricket. Ideally, Murray and Roberts should have shared the man of the match award, but it went to Pakistan's Sarfraz Nawaz, who accounted for Roy Fredericks, Gordon Greenidge, Alvin Kallicharran and Vanburn Holder in 12 overs while giving away only 44 runs. It is believed that adjudicator Tom Graveney, the former England batsman, had only watched the first half of the West Indies innings and handed in his verdict before Murray and Roberts stunned the world.

West Indies were not blessed with a similar miracle last Saturday, but despite their blow hot, blow cold World Cup 2019, there are visions of a better tomorrow. And Brathwaite getting the man of the match award instead of fellow centurion Kane Williamson would have caused a debate but not a storm.

mid-day's group sports editor Clayton Murzello is a purist with an open stance. He tweets @ClaytonMurzello Send your feedback to mailbag@mid-day.com

The views expressed in this column are the individual's and don't represent those of the paper

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