Riaz adds insult to injury with his captivating cameo
Friday 20 August 2010
You don't have to be mad to enjoy stepping out as a nightwatchman – but a streak of eccentricity probably helps. There have been some belters down the years, and to a long list of greatly appreciated characters can now be added the name of Wahab Riaz.
Already on a high after marking his Test debut by taking five for 63, one can imagine Riaz having strapped on the pads without being asked as the first day of the third Test drew to a close. And when his chance came, he did his job by keeping out the final few balls.
No "proper" nightwatchman is happy with that, though. Given the rest of the evening, plus a few hours next morning, to contemplate what might happen, the batsman's accomplice starts to think about producing a masterpiece of an innings. Dreams do come true from time to time. Australian fast bowler Jason "Dizzy" Gillespie turned a bit of moonlighting into an astonishing display of strokeplay by scoring 201 not out against Bangladesh in Chittagong a few years ago. And South Africa wicketkeeper Mark Boucher has twice scored Test centuries after being pushed up the order.
But most people want nightwatchmen to have a bit of fun, then clear the decks. Mind you, Robin Marlar, once of Cambridge University and Sussex, probably took flippancy too far when he failed to see out the evening through being stumped. Second ball. For six.
Riaz had his sights set on something special yesterday. Forward defensive strokes were held in the pose for several seconds and having played and missed, the tailender sauntered down the pitch to tap the spot that had betrayed him.
For nearly two hours, and while 70 or so balls were negotiated, Riaz imagined he might match, or better, England's Jack Russell, whose 94 against Sri Lanka at Lord's in 1988 is the highest score achieved by a debut-making nightwatchman in Test cricket. Riaz fell well short of that landmark. Happily, though, his innings ended in slightly crazy fashion when he demanded a review of the lbw verdict delivered in Graeme Swann's favour. A nightwatchman with ideas above his station – that's just what we want.
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