Brilliant Best takes the plaudits
Denesh Ramdin and Kevin Pietersen paid tribute to Tino Best after his scintillating performance on day four of the third Investec Test between England and West Indies at Edgbaston.
On his return to the international fold following an absence of three years, Best claimed two wickets as England reached 221 for five in this rain-hit encounter.
Yet it was his staggering performance with the bat earlier in the day, which saw him compile the highest score by at Test number 11, that provided the main talking point.
After coming in with the score reading 283 for nine, Best, whose batting ability was famously derided by England’s Andrew Flintoff in 2004, clubbed 14 fours and a six in a thrilling innings of 95 that helped West Indies post 426 all out.
The late finish to proceedings today - play continued until 7:28pm following two stoppages for bad light - ensured Best was unable to speak to the written media, but his efforts were hailed by Ramdin, who saw his own unbeaten 107 somewhat overshadowed.
“It was amazing, Tino went out there and played some unbelievable shots,” said Ramdin.
“I didn’t think he had all those shots in his armoury, but he went out there and expressed himself; that’s the way Tino plays.”
There was laughter from Ramdin when he was questioned on the conversations that took place in the middle during a riotous partnership of 143, the third-highest for the 10th wicket in Test history.
“It was funny,” he explained. “He kept saying ‘keep going big dog, you go out there, you get the hundred and then you bat with me to get my fifty’.
“I told him I would be there when he got his hundred, but unfortunately he got carried away.”
Elaborating on the energy Best has brought to the tourists, Ramdin added: “Once you give him that ball in his hand he will run up there and try to bowl 90mph every ball at any point in time. With the bat in his hand, he believes he is an all-rounder now, more than before. He’s a good guy to have around.”
Ramdin found himself embroiled in controversy today, having celebrated reaching three figures by unveiling a piece of paper that read ‘YEA VIV TALK NAH’ - a response to criticism from the legendary Sir Viv Richards.
“Sir Viv had said something in the press and I think I got a bit emotional and it came out the way it did,” Ramdin said.
“Having said that, he’s a legend of the Caribbean and I still look up to him.
“His statement was a bit hurtful to me, but I worked hard and I proved the critics (wrong). Having the note in my pocket reminded me I needed to get runs.”
Best accounted for Andrew Strauss to leave England 49 for three in reply, but an assured partnership of 137 between Kevin Pietersen and Ian Bell halted the Windies’ charge.
Pietersen looked somewhere near his brilliant best as he eased to 78 from 81 deliveries, while Bell reached stumps requiring a further 24 to become the first Warwickshire batsman to make a Test hundred at Edgbaston.
Although their respective innings were impressive, it was no surprise when the first question Pietersen faced concerned the record-breaking display of Best.
“He’s an entertainer and he played really well,” conceded England’s number four.
“It was not a bad wicket for him to bat on, actually. It was quite slow, you couldn’t really get it up, our fast bowlers had a lot of overs in their legs and we didn’t have a newish ball. But he played nicely. He came at us, he hit the ball and played very well.”
Although England still require a further 56 to avoid the follow-on, a draw appears inevitable with further showers forecast for tomorrow.
“It looks like it’s going to be a stalemate now,” Pietersen added. “I can’t see them taking another 15 wickets, with a little bit of rain around tomorrow, but cricket is a funny game. You never know.”
Pietersen confirmed he will be taking some time off after this match, following his retirement from limited-overs cricket.
“I’m having a break until the beginning of July,” he revealed. “I’m going to continue hitting balls throughout June because I think I need to; I want to try and keep myself in this nick and net as much as possible, but I will be going on breaks with my family.
“I’ll be back playing (for Surrey) on July 3; three t20s and a championship game going into the Test match.”
Pressed on his decision to give up one-day cricket, Pietersen continued: “It was a very difficult decision, but waking up the next day I was absolutely buzzing - no regrets at all.
“I’ve moved on and I don’t want to talk about it because it is done and dusted. It would be unfair to this Test for me to create headlines tomorrow talking about it.”