AOC’s West Indies correspondent Rohan Kallicharan finds solace in defeat after an encouraging performance from the tourists at Lord’s.
Valiant defeat has never been, nor will it be, acceptable for the West Indies cricket team. That said, it would be churlish to ignore the positives to come out of a spirited performance from the tourists in the first Test at Lord’s.
In my column last week I said I fully expected the West Indies to be competitive and so it proved, but it was disappointing that even while running their hosts uncomfortably close, we still saw plenty of examples of the thoughtless cricket that has characterised West Indies for so long. If this side actually put together four or five days of consistent cricket, the notion of a West Indian revival could be more than just fantasy.
Ottis Gibson faces a task of congratulating and encouraging this young side on what was a very good performance in some aspects, while also making it clear that they contributed to their own demise. There were shades of the Bridgetown Test against Australia just six weeks ago, when the Windies lost three second innings wickets in next to no time. That surely has to come down to mental application, especially given that two of those wickets were eminently avoidable at Lord’s – only Adrian Barath, who was dismissed by a peach of a delivery from Tim Bresnan, can claim exemption.
Run outs are unforgivable in Test match cricket, so to have a top-order player dismissed in that manner in both innings is something that will annoy the coaching staff above anything else. Given that Shivnarine Chanderpaul sold Darren Bravo down the river on Thursday, for Bravo to do likewise to Kirk Edwards two days later beggared belief.
Chanderpaul again proved to be the master of the rear-guard action and he deserves every plaudit that comes his way. However, Gibson should have pulled him up over the dismissal of Fidel Edwards at the close of play on day one. With eight wickets down Edwards was not a nightwatchman, and in no way responsible for protecting Chanderpaul or the No.11, Shannon Gabriel. The single taken off the first ball of that final over, which led to Edwards’ dismissal, robbed Chanderpaul of the opportunity to score a century, but also the team of adding 30 or 40 crucial runs on the second morning.
Along with Chanderpaul, it was Marlon Samuels who shone in the second innings for the West Indies, displaying a maturity that belied much of what has been written about him in the past. Contrary to popular opinion, Samuels does care deeply about his cricket and has demonstrated his talent against the very best. However, two centuries in a Test career spanning 12 years – compulsory interruption notwithstanding – does no justice to this.
In my opinion, the No.3 slot should be a straight battle between him and Lendl Simmons, yet neither has grasped their opportunity. If Samuels did bat at first drop it would allow the tourists to bring in Narsingh Deonarine or Assad Fudadin, or allow Edwards to find his feet in these conditions in a less exposed position.
With the ball, Kemar Roach led the way with three wickets in each innings, and can justifiably argue that he was unlucky not to have more, while Gabriel put in an encouraging debut before being ruled out for the rest of the tour due to a stress reaction in his back. England fans may remember his replacement Tino Best.
However, the problem in the bowling department for the West Indies is a lack of depth. When Roach took a breather there was no fifth or even fourth bowler able to apply the type of pressure that would trouble Alastair Cook and Ian Bell on the final day.
The skipper Darren Sammy continues to be something of an enigma. His leadership and attitude are exemplary, two qualities long absent in West Indian cricket. He took three wickets and scored 54 runs in the match, and did it all tidily, but that level of contribution is neither that of a frontline bowler (essentially his is the role of fourth seamer), or even an allrounder. How long can the West Indies resist the opportunity to throw in the flamboyant André Russell?
Sammy would dearly love to have Sunil Narine available for the Trent Bridge Test but he will be in India playing in the IPL. Shane Shillingford is likely to get the opportunity to play on a surface that should give him more assistance than Lord’s, but the seam and swing typically on offer in Nottingham will also bring Ravi Rampaul into the equation.
The West Indies may have lost five of their last seven Tests but they are beginning to ask questions of teams with whom they have failed to compete in a very long time. This delights me because I felt the English media had been very disparaging and disrespectful of this side in the lead up to the series.
While talk of a revival remains a long way off, a close inspection of the West Indies recent form demonstrates obvious improvement and they served notice at Lord’s that they will not be a pushover against an England side that is far from invincible.
Click here to Jo Harman’s account of the final day of the Lord’s Test