An innings by Shivnarine Chanderpaul
Shivnarine Chanderpaul walked to the wicket to play the 422nd first-class innings of his career at 11.16am this morning. Lancashire were 32 for two, having lost both openers to Somerset's Charl Willoughby on a green Taunton wicket which was already playing better than it looked.
Immediately he reached the middle, the Guyanan followed his usual habit of asking for guard and then taking a bail and tapping it into the crease before replacing it on the stumps. This was an action he was to repeat at intervals during his innings. The purpose of the exercise is plainly to help him mark his place clearly, but I have sometimes toyed with the notion that it puts something of an individual stamp on his batting, rather as if he was a sculptor signing his work.
Chanderpaul then flexed his knees a couple of times and prepared to face his first ball from Willoughby. Some whimsical pundits have offered the view that his distinctive two-eyed stance suggests that he expects the bowling to come from midwicket, but old professionals point out that the bat invariably comes down straight as a dye when he is playing orthodox shots. At any rate, it is a stance which had helped Chanderpaul score 18931 runs before Tuesday's innings, so it's reasonable to argue that it works rather well for him.
One of the most useful things that can happen to a batsman early in his innings is that he is not required to play a shot. This allows him to get used to the pace of the wicket without making a potentially perilous commitment and it also allows him to adjust to his surroundings. Therefore, Chanderpaul was probably mildly pleased that he could let his first ball go through to Jos Buttler, and pleased again when he worked his second delivery safely through slips for a couple of runs.
In fact, Chanderpaul scored off five of the first eleven balls he received. He pulled a long-hop from Peter Trego for four and also pushed balls into gaps for easy singles. It was noticeable how frequently a player not renowned as a quick scorer managed to keep the scoreboard moving, even if only by a nudge backward of square on the leg side. Very rarely did Chanderpaul play and miss as he reached 20 off 25 balls with a cut off Peter Trego.
Batting is fascinating because it involves the mastery of a multiplicity of interconnected variables: the bowling, the condition of the pitch, the state of the innings, the batsman's own technical capacity and that of his partner, the position of the match and so on When players get these things right, their "decision-making" is praised. Watching someone bat well - and Chanderpaul batted very well to be 33 not out at lunch - is absorbing because you are watching hundreds of tiny responses taking place as a cricketer displays a range of physical and mental qualities. Each reaction to a ball is, to an extent, dependant on what has gone before. Not for nothing is the process described as building an innings.
Immediately after lunch Somerset brought Murali Kartik into their attack and this prompted a change of approach from Chanderpaul. The first delivery he received from the slow left-armer was overpitched and the left-hander immediately cover-drove it to the boundary, something of a rarity this from a batsman whose favourite run-scoring areas are square of the wicket or behind it.
But Chanderpaul was clearly not prepared to let the Indian dictate the terms of their personal contest. In the spinner's next over he swept him fine and then drove him through the covers again. Another sweep to fine leg brought up the West Indian's half-century, the seventh time in twelve innings that he has passed fifty for Lancashire this season. Six balls later, he slog-swept Kartik over midwicket for four. He attempted a reverse sweep to the next ball but only top-edged a simple catch to Marcus Trescothick at slip. The time was 1.57 and Chanderpaul left the wicket with Lancashire on 153 for five. He had batted for 119 minutes and scored 56 runs off the 78 deliveries he had faced. Shivnarine Chanderpaul's 422nd innings was over.
Photo: Simon Pendrigh
(c) Lancashire CC Ltd