Davison's blitzkrieg and a Caribbean calypso

IT was a century at the Centurion that will be remembered for long. For its booming blows that left the opposition rattled, for its sheer dare-devilry that sent the pacemen running for cover, for its inventiveness that had the normally cool Caribbean skipper Carl Hooper locked in animated discussions.

IT was a century at the Centurion that will be remembered for long. For its booming blows that left the opposition rattled, for its sheer dare-devilry that sent the pacemen running for cover, for its inventiveness that had the normally cool Caribbean skipper Carl Hooper locked in animated discussions.

Vasbert Drakes brings off a spectacular catch near the boundary line to put an end to Canadian John Davison's assault on the West Indian bowlers. Drakes, who was hit to all parts of the ground by Davison, came back strongly to finish with five wickets for 44 runs. — Pic. AFP-

Before the World Cup, there was talk of how records would tumble as the big guns met the minnows. However, there was a change in the script here. One from the lesser nations actually conjured the quickest hundred in the World Cup, thrilling the audience, winning admirers, and seeing his name in big bold letters in newspapers. John Davison had been an unheralded cricketer, turning out for South Australia in the domestic competition down under, without ever threatening to make the big league, and it was finally Canada that provided this 32-year-old with an opportunity to rub shoulders with the best in the business.

Davison, essentially an off-spinner, had made an impression with the ball, against Bangladesh and Kenya, both containing and striking. An aggressive customer with the willow, he had been sent at the top of the order in the earlier matches too, but could not convert the starts into meaningful scores.

All this changed on Sunday, February 23, when Davison lived out a World Cup dream. His hundred consumed just 67 balls, and when he walked back having been caught stupendously by Vasbert Drakes at long-on, the Canadian received a thunderous ovation.

His team still lost the group `B' encounter by a mile, collapsing from 155 for one to 202 all out, and then seeing the West Indians blitzing their way to the target in just 20.3 overs. But then, Davison's onslaught will have a special place in World Cup history. The manner in which he gave the charge to pacemen Meryvn Dillon, Pedro Collins and Vasbert Drakes, cutting and pulling, creating room to smash them through covers and point, and even sending the ball soaring over the square fence on the off-side. This was breath-taking stuff. It was indeed inspirational batting that brought the 10,000-strong crowd to its feet, and Hooper was forced to rearrange his field several times. Even an experienced paceman such as Vasbert Drakes was at his wits' end, Davison's aggressive ways bringing out the errors of length from him.

No paceman was spared of Davison's bludgeoning blade. The Canadian took 35 off Dillon, thrashing him for three successive boundaries, 27 off Drakes, and 17 off Collins, picking up 15 in one over, that included a swatted cut over point. He was severe on Hooper's off-spin as well.

And a side that had capitulated for 36 against Sri Lanka — the lowest ever ODI score - was now cantering along at hectic speed — making Davison's effort even more special. Twelve overs had produced 96 runs, Davison's contribution being a stunning 72, and it was at this score that the other opener Ishwar Meraj fell to Collins. There was no stopping Davison though, turning out only in his fourth ODI.

A previous highest score of 31, and an average of 13 did not matter on this day. True, he was put down at seven and 35. However, to his credit, the `Man of the Match' Davison made the Caribbeans pay for the lapses. When he was finally taken by the athletic Drakes, who flung himself backwards at long-on to pluck what appeared another six, Davison had made 111 (76b, 8x4, 6x6), and aptly, at the end of it all, he spoke about the `honour and glory' of representing the country. A hurricane effort it certainly was.

The rest of the Canadian batting, lacking in technique and experience, fell away after the departure of Davison. Drakes, pitching the ball up and sending down a strong second spell, picked up five wickets, including that of the key middle-order batsman Ian Billcliff, snared outside the off-stump.

Relieved to chase only 203, the Caribbeans went hell for leather in a bid to boost their net run-rate and were successful too, reaching the target in only 20.3 overs. Opener Wavell Hinds (64, 31b, 10x4, 3x6) did threaten to make Davison's record short-lived with some scintillating strokes all round the wicket.

Hinds, along with superstar Brian Lara, brought up the 100-run partnership for the second wicket off just 46 deliveries, the latter slicing apart a hapless Barry Seebaran for 26 runs in an over. It was Davison though, this time as an off-spinner, who ended the rollicking partnership, getting Hinds stumped. Lara, in audacious form, smashed eight fours and five sixes in his dazzling 73 off only 40 balls — he reached the quickest 50 in World Cup history off just 23 balls — before being bowled by Nicholas de Groot. Ramnaresh Sarwan too stroked the ball handsomely as the West Indians notched up their second win in four matches, the game against Bangladesh having to be abandoned due to rain.

The West Indians won the match at the Centurion, but it was Davison's century that won the hearts.

The scores:

Canada: I. Maraj c Hooper b Collins 16; J. Davison c Drakes b Hinds 111; D. Chumney c Gayle b Hinds 19; I. Billcliff c Jacobs b Drakes 16; N. Ifill c Jacobs b Drakes 9; J. Harris c Hooper b Drakes 6; N. De Groot (run out) 11; A. Bagai (run out) 2; A. Codrington c Jacobs b Drakes 0; B. Seebaran lbw b Drakes 0; D. Joseph (not out) 0. Extras (lb-3, w-3, nb-6) 12. Total (in 42.5 overs) 202.

Fall of wickets: 1-96, 2-155, 3-156, 4-174, 5-185, 6-190, 7-197, 8-202, 9-202.

West Indies bowling: Dillon 5-0-41-0, Collins 7-1-35-1, Drakes 9.5-1-44-5, Hooper 8-1-31-0, Gayle 9-1-29-0, Hinds 4-0-19-2.

West Indies: C. Gayle c Bagai b Joseph 8; W. Hinds st. Bagai b Davison 64; B. Lara b De Groot 73; R. Sarwan (not out) 42; C. Hooper (not out) 5. Extras (lb-5, w-8, nb-1) 14. Total (for three wkts. in 20.3 overs) 206.

Fall of wickets: 1-32, 2-134, 3-177.

Canada bowling: Joseph 4-0-47-1, Codrington 4-0-25-0, Ifill 4-0-46-0, Seebaran 1-0-26-0, Davison 5-0-36-1, De Groot 2.3-0-21-1.