Sunday, 20 May 2012

West Indies Win The Day In A Losing Cause

Bell made 61
Despite a gallant bowling performance from the West Indies which removed the last eight English wickets for only 154, a fine Test debut by Shanon Gabriel and the steady improvement of the remainder, England still took a substantial lead into the second innings, thanks mostly to Ian Bell. He alone kept his head whilst other batsmen blazed and left but then, by that stage, it was exactly what England needed. 55 for the ninth wicket with Graeme Swann certainly helped. England are blessed with a team which bats strongly to ten and even Jimmy Anderson bats better than most number elevens and is the team night watchman. Broad and Swann are the best batsmen in their batting position in world cricket.

Darren Sammy had at least conjured a session win for his side: its first of the Test and with three wickets and a solid start to their second innings fifteen minutes before tea, the second session was theirs on a platter. For an hour, the openers had looked solid, offering no way in for an attack which has been irresistibly deadly for the last few years. Barath, batting with the same resolve but even more concentration looked more like the determined little battler that scored a debut hundred against the Australian in Sydney a few years back. There was nothing loose waving outside off stump and Powell was every bit the Test batsman.

The last eleven balls to tea changed all that.

Bairstow celebrates the
run out of Kirk Edwards
Adrian Barath was removed with the last ball of Tim Bresnan's first over with a brute that jagged away and lifted and caught his outside edge. There was nothing he could do - it was just too good for him. Batsmen the world over from Test to playground would have sighed the same "bad luck mate". In the next over, Broad bowling with two men back behind square and the telegraph tapping his intent, dropped short to Powell and was more surprised than the batsman when Powell hooked to Bell at square leg. The extra height of Broad got big on him and he carried through where maybe a more experienced man might have dropped his wrists but experience isn't something that the Caribbean has. Five balls later, Bravo called Kirk Edwards to come for a sharp single and then changed his mind. Edwards was too big a unit to turn and beat Jonny Bairstow's dart thrown bullseye from a short mid wicket. Bravo himself was a sacrifice in the first innings and Edwards shocking run on this tour continued.

It would have been an unpleasant place in the visitors rooms at tea.

The last session was played in two halves. The first, to drinks, was a battle not so much to survive as to score. Just 33 runs were scored in 19 overs as Chanderpaul batted under self imposed restraining orders. Again breaks proved crucial as Bravo, who had just started to blossom taking fours from Broad and stroking the ball nicely into gaps, left thanks to the guile of Swann. The off spinner is such a good bowler to left handers and he did Bravo with an arm ball which the batsman left and lost the top of off stump. At 4-65, a collapse was imminent but Marlon Samuels had other thoughts, smacking Swann sweetly through the covers second ball. Drinks were taken at the end of the over.

Chanderpaul resisting arrest again
In the last hour, Chanderpaul and Samuels batted not only without concern but added 51, easily the West Indies best hour of the Test. They were particular hard on Bresnan, taking five boundaries in as many overs. The Yorkshireman had conceded just six in his previous thirty overs of the match. Anderson and Swann were swung in and out of the attack in the last hour, whilst Bresnan bled, with even Chanderpaul into the boundary scoring spree. His last three scoring shots being a tickle to the fine leg boundary and then two spanking drives through cover.

Thanks to the fifth wicket pair, the session belonged to the West Indies, giving them two of the three on a much better day. Strauss' century separates them in this match and still 35 behind its hard to see anything but an England win. The weather for Sunday looks poor and time will be lost but perhaps, the way they finished, Chanderpaul would prefer to be out there. Dinesh Ramdin is no mug, with 166 at this level and nine other first class hundreds but the tail is long and contains no life with which to waggle. Had Rampaul been there, hope might have gleamed stronger. As it is, Chanderpaul, Samuels and Ramdin must find 200 between them and then hope for fifty from the last four.

Stranger things have happened. Glen McGrath once made a half century ...

Session Count: England 5, West Indies 2, drawn 2