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Tino Best: From the ridiculous to the sublime

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Sam Sheringham | 21:18 UK time, Sunday, 10 June 2012

Before his record-breaking heroics at Edgbaston on Sunday, Tino Best's last Test innings in England ended in comical ignominy as he charged down the Lord's wicket and was stumped seconds after being ironically encouraged to "mind the windows" by England's sledger-in-chief Andrew Flintoff.

The charismatic fast bowler from Barbados had to wait eight years for a chance to get his own back, but when he did every pane of glass at the ground was under threat during an assault as unexpected as it was entertaining.

Coming in at number 11 in his first Test for three years, Best slayed England's attack to every corner of the Birmingham venue in an astonishing innings of 95 - the highest by a number 11 in Test cricket history.

Like a golfer admiring a straight drive, each of his boundaries was followed by a check finish and his fifty greeted by a lavish arm-wheeling celebration.

Tino Best

West Indies tailender Tino Best hit the highest score by a number 11 in Test history after scoring 95 runs against England at Edgbaston. Photo: Getty

The only disappointment for those present at Edgbaston was that his dismissal five runs short of a century meant we could only speculate as to how he might have chosen to celebrate reaching the landmark.

"I reckon he'd have been straight out of those gates and off down Broad Street," said former England captain and Test Match Special pundit Michael Vaughan in reference to one of Birmingham's liveliest night spots.

Legendary West Indian commentator Tony Cozier said the nature of Best's contribution was entirely befitting of a man whose answer-phone message speaks volumes about his levels of self-confidence.

"It's something along the lines of 'This is Tino Best speaking, the fastest bowler in the world. I can't take your call right now, but I'll get back to you as soon as I've finished practising how to get faster'", said Cozier, who lives in Barbados and has been reporting on West Indies cricket since 1965.

"He is a character and a showman and I think that is what the game needs. Sometimes he overdoes it but it was great to see him come back. And now he has something to keep with him for the rest of his life - the fact that he has scored the highest score by a number 11 in a Test match."

Best's incredible innings marked a resurrection of sorts for a player whose international career had been blown off course since he was called up to face Australia as a 21-year-old in 2003.

Although capable of sending down unplayable deliveries in excess of 90mph, he struggled to find the control to match his pace and was dropped after a disappointing tour of Sri Lanka in 2005.

A brief spell in the now-defunct Indian Cricket League was followed by an ill-fated stint with Leek Cricket Club in the North Staffordshire and South Cheshire League that ended with Best being sacked for misconduct.

"I was chairman and our captain was looking for a big-name signing as our pro," said Leek chairman Brian Mellor. "Tino came along and, in his first few performances, looked a world beater for us with fifties down the order and five-wicket hauls.

"It looked as though we were going to win the league, but all of a sudden a switch went off and we ended up with all sorts of claims flying around.

"He started trying to knock people's heads off instead of trying to hit the stumps, got accused of bowling deliberate beamers and started falling out with umpires and opposition players.

"Things got out of hand and it was getting to the stage where we would have got in serious trouble, so we had to terminate his contract. I just couldn't believe the change in the guy. "

Having returned to Barbados with his tail between his legs, Best found himself back in the Test squad in 2009 when a pay dispute led to the majority of first-choice players going on strike for a home series against Bangladesh.

But, after picking up only two wickets in two Tests against the Tigers, he was back in international exile once again.

The Leek episode did not prevent Yorkshire from taking a punt on Best as their overseas player at the start of the 2010 season and, although he only took 18 wickets in nine Championship matches for the county, there were signs of a new-found maturity in his personality and performance.

Back in Barbados, he forced himself into an attack featuring fellow Windies pacemen Kemar Roach and Fidel Edwards and bowled well enough to earn a call-up to the one-day squad against Australia in March.

And when Shannon Gabriel was forced home from the tour of England by injury last month, Best was given the call to resume his Test career.

"In the last couple of years he has added control and tended to keep himself together rather than let his emotions get the better of him," added Cozier.

"He's a volatile character but he can be very effective if you appreciate him and know how to handle him."

England's attack certainly didn't know how to handle Best when he set about ruining their Sunday morning.

He surpassed Zaheer Khan's 75 - the previous highest Test score by a number 11 - with a four and a straight six off Tim Bresnan and looked to be careering towards a century before he was fooled by Graham Onions and caught trying to catapult a slower ball into the executive boxes.

The crowd let out a collective sigh of disappointment before rising to their feet to acclaim an innings worthy of Flintoff in his prime.

As for the former England all-rounder himself, he clearly enjoyed every minute of Best's breathtaking response to his eight-year-old jibe.

"Nnnoooooooooo Tino!," he said on Twitter after the Bajan's dismissal. "He went for the windows to reach his 100! Well played sir, great entertainment, take a bow."

Comments

  • Comment number 1.

    Excellent performance by Tino Best. Totally unexpected in the match. Now everyone will be saying he is an all rounder. Now WI have a great chance to win this test match on the final day, England can't win now.

  • Comment number 2.

    Superb entertainment from Tino but despite this achievement, I feel that the England bowlers should be slightly embarrassed by their failure to outfox a man who had a previous best test score of a paltry 27. Good bowling from Onions and Finn up until that point but a loss of concentration cost over 100 runs!

  • Comment number 3.

    Very strange Test match. For me, I was encouraged to hear Ashley Giles, an England selector, all but admit that this rotation/resting policy had backfired (he was speaking to Aggers on TMS at tea). The impact of resting Anderson and Broad together has been exponentially negative. Besides the weakened fielding England have now lost the initiative that they needed going into the South Africa series.

    I agreed with the decision to rest Jimmy. But Broad has been out injured and needs to build up match fitness. But now, in light of this below par England performance, I think that people like Aggers and Michael Vaughan got it right: if Jimmy needs/wants a rest then target the ODIs (and what's this Aussie ODI series all about?). Ditto for any other England player. Giles responded that the whole argument simply reappears when punters, who've paid big money to watch a presumably full-strength England ODI side, complain that so-and-so's absent. (Jimmy's not a shoe-in for the ODI side. Cook, Pietersen and Swann are the only certainties that I can think of.)

    England are now a little on the back foot going into this crucial SA series. The rotation/resting idea is one of those ideas that can only be judged by its results.

    It is obviously not working well. I hope the selectors will rethink it ASAP. But credit to Ashley Giles. Refreshingly honest in front of the media.

  • Comment number 4.

    I'm not sure the rotation has had as much to do with the performance as the fact that 2 days were lost to rain and there was little chance of a result on a flattish pitch. For me the most disappointing aspect of this Test has not been the dropped catches...they happen from time to time...but Strauss's negative/cautious captaincy.

    Congrats to Tino Best though!!

  • Comment number 5.

    Well done, Tino. it appears that when Fred is not sledging him then he can actually wield the willow! all jokes aside, though, that was a fantastic knock, given the relative inexperience of the bowling he was facing. Swann aside, the bowling spearhead had 35-odd tests between them.
    the fielding looks a little unbalanced with Jimmy missing from the slip cordon. the changes to the complexion of the England side go way beyond just swapping around a couple of bowlers. Prior has a hard time keeping to Onions, and that much is obvious when the ball keeps falling out of his hands!

    all that said, however, should take nothing away from what was a great fight from Ramdin and Best (Samuels i would have expected to get in the runs since he has had such a great series).

    good show. next time please don't 'rest' Anderson.

  • Comment number 6.

    Out for a duck if Anderson and Broad were there. Enough said.

  • Comment number 7.

    @R-Brooker, why would KP be a shoe-in? He has retired from the format! Having said that, he'll probably still have a better ODI series then the rest of the squad :-)

    I jest, of course...

  • Comment number 8.

    Listening on the radio in the car praying that Tino would get his hundred and for a while when he was nudging singles and 2's in the 90's it looked like he would do it. Shame about the rush of blood. We need the Windies back for real in test cricket but they need to do something about their slow pitches. All the top bowlers in domestic cricket are spinners! How's that happened?

  • Comment number 9.

    Tino only took 18 wickets for Yorkshire, primarily because he could not hit the strip he was bowling on, come to that he could not hit the next two strips down half of the time! Good batting performance though in the test.

  • Comment number 10.

    Ian Bell's replacing KP in the ODI squad. Shoot me now.

 

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