Read all about it. All concerned were being terribly polite and magnanimous yesterday as praise was heaped on Chris Read with understated decorum. This should not disguise the fact that in effect he had told the selectors where they could shove it.
The wicketkeeper dropped from England's Test team because his batting was deemed deficient pulled them out of an extremely large hole in the first one-day international against the West Indies with an exhibition of nerveless big hitting.
"If he had a point to prove, he did it in a good way," said the captain, Michael Vaughan, courteously. "When he went out to the crease we knew it needed a gem of an innings for us to win."
"I'm just really happy I've managed to go in in a tough situation and bring home the bacon for England," said Read demurely. "It was disappointing to be dropped from the Test team but I understand the reasons." He had gone in to bat in the 26th over with the cause lost. England were 119 for 6 and had four overs left of an abbreviated match to make 157. Wickets and balls were in too short a supply. Read hit three steepling sixes in an innings of 27 from 15 balls, which included 17 in the penultimate over bowled by Corey Collymore.
"In my wildest dreams I was thinking of trying to get down to eight, nine or 10 from the last over," Read said. "The boundaries were reasonably short, particularly at one end with a breeze blowing so I thought I would have to do the damage at Collymore's end. If it was in the slot, I was going to go for it."
His tactic - moving his front leg out of line to give him room to hit straight - worked so well that England needed just four from the final over. The body language of a stunned West Indies side indicated that there was only one winner.
The hero, Read, was out trying to win it with one shot, bowled when he missed an attempted cut. But he was a shoo-in for the man of the match award, which was still hard on Shivnarine Chanderpaul, who played the most accomplished kind of limited overs innings in making 84 from 96 balls.
With a combination of placement and unpredictable improvisation, Chanderpaul had taken his side from 67 for 4 in the 18th over. The total of 156 looked more than serviceable as England's batsmen kept on getting in only to get out.
They had lost touch when Ian Blackwell was the sixth wicket to fall after bludgeoning two mighty sixes. Read, who lost his Test place to Geraint Jones, followed the example to perfection.
The winning runs were smeared by Darren Gough, who was returning to the side after being omitted in the early part of the winter. With typical showmanship, Gough took a wicket with his 16th ball and finished with 2 for 22. His weak right knee, the necessary object of continual tender loving care, seemed to stand up well.
The 1-0 lead England now have in the series of seven matches could be significant. On recent evidence, West Indies might fold up having lost a match they know they should have won. They have time to regroup because the next game is not until Saturday in Trinidad, when Brian Lara will return only if his broken little finger has healed. But England, as they did in the first game of the Test series, have dramatically snatched the initiative.
Read said: "I was gutted to be dropped from the Test team, but my aim after this is to score runs for Notts and put pressure on to get my place back." The little wicketkeeper has thrown down a gauntlet.
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