A busy day in cricket yesterday. New Zealand beat Pakistan by 45 runs in a One Day International that saw the return of James Neesham: who crushed 47 runs off of just 13 deliveries — including five sixes in one over — and would have cruised to the fastest ODI half century ever had New Zealand not simply run out of overs. Then the all-rounder came back and took three Pakistani wickets to seal the game.
And he wasn’t even Man of the Match! Those plaudits fell to veteran opener Martin Guptill who’s run-a-ball 138 to kickoff New Zealand’s innings were enough to put them into a good position and keep them there all day. With the World Cup around the corner, you have to give some thought to the idea that this might finally be New Zealand’s time. They currently rank third in the ICC’s ODI rankings behind England and India. And while you have to make England the favorite this summer on their home turf, New Zealand are really making a case for themselves. Either way, things are setting up for what should be a tight, highly competitive tournament this summer in England and Wales.
Meanwhile, up the road a bit in Sydney, India won the toss and chose to bat on the first day of the fourth and final Test against Australia, with a chance to take the series 3-1 before they move into the ODI stage of the tour. And boy oh boy bat they did, highlighted by Cheteshwar Pujara who continued his run of good form, scoring a slow-burn 130 not-out to lead Australia to 303 for four wickets at the close of play.
It really was a tale of two batsmen then. First you have Neesham, who scored 47 off of 13 in probably like 15 minutes — while Pujara has defended his way to three centuries already this tour and has spent over 30 hours at the wicket since the Indian plane landed in Melbourne. Many people have said that batsmen like Neesham who revel in the shorter forms of the game will end up ruining Test cricket’s methodical pacing, and so they will be warmed to hear of Pujara’s success down-under these past few weeks.
I believe, personally, that there is room for all styles of batsmen in cricket, no matter the format. And new styles will only serve to provide more color to older formats. It’s a big old world, and there’s plenty of cricket, let’s mix it up now and again. It gives the game a variety that other sports simply don’t have. Neesham and Pujara are barely even playing the same sport, and yet somehow they are.
And people have been saying that this or that is going to finally be the nail in Test cricket’s coffin, and it never is, because there will always be people like Cheteshwar Pujara who simply like to bat, and score runs, and want to do it all day, no matter the format or the venue.
It takes all kinds. And yesterday we saw two of them. Cricket is infinitely interesting. And the above is just one example of its near constant state of curiosity. It’s an old bat and ball sport played with 22 people on empty fields of green yet somehow every day it throws up something different for us all to enjoy. You tune in one day and watch a muscle-bound hulk score 50 runs in 20 minutes, and you tune in the next and watch a skinny kid bat all damn day. It’s almost a miracle.