What did West Indies have for lunch?

Today was a microcosm of the problems facing West Indies. They dominated the first session, bowling superbly and at last making England scrap for every run. England went to lunch with Paul Collingwood and Matt Prior at the crease…but not a lot else to come.

Then what happened? What on earth were they fed at lunch? After the interval, everything fell apart with the bowlers losing their lines and the captain, Daren Ganga, for some inexplicable reason choosing to bowl Marlon Samuels. It was a session of such diabolical cricket that they fully deserve to lose this Test tomorrow. It was utterly depressing.

Matt Prior flicks one fine

England did very well to rub their noses in it, though – and Matt Prior continues to impress. But, still…it’s pretty painful watching West Indies at the moment and I don’t see how they can recover, either. The selection of Austin Richards to their one-day team is a case in point. Just why he was chosen in place of Wavell Hinds, Ryan Hinds, A.N. Other is anyone’s guess. I tried to write a profile for him at Cricinfo and didn’t get on very well at all. The cynic in me thinks there is something more sinister afoot other than simply being a “random selection”.

England v West Indies, 4th Test, Chester-le-Street, 3rd day

We might just get a whole day’s play today. No, what am I saying? This is The North! The forecast is much better for today so let’s at least hope we have a contest on our hands.

Read Cricinfo, watch ceefax below (refresh to update it) and leave your comments below. Go crazy.

Bravo that man

Dwayne Bravo sounds more like a name of an American basketball player than a West Indian cricketer. And if this tour amounts to nothing more than a disaster in terms of results, at least the team has Dwayne and his heroics. This guy is seriously good and nothing less than entertaining to watch.

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He is cocky and boastful. He bounced Kevin Pietersen, knocking his helmet off, then sprinted down the pitch in a mad celebration – completely disregarding Pietersen who might well have been injured. “Who cares?!” Bravo might’ve thought. “I’ve just dismissed one of the world’s very best batsmen”. One who, incidentally, then claimed he had “never been hit on the head before”, a statement which I think might well be a load of balderdash.

Watching him bat today was a fascinating experience. Owing to yet another damned delay due to rain, Sky were showing us highlights of the 1993-94 tour – the tour which first sparked my love of the game, as I’ve said far too many times – containing West Indian batsmanship of true Caribbean flair. Their opponents, England, were a mishmash of talent: immensely gifted batsmen with mental flaws, brought up in an equally flawed county system. England rarely took the attack to West Indies. It was all about grafting and grinding.

Fast forward 13 years and how things have changed. Two West Indian batsman – Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul – battling it out as though their lives depended on it (their livlihoods probably do, but that’s a matter for another day). Battling it out like Atherton once did. And they did it brilliantly. Bravo to both of them, but particularly to Dwayne. He’s young and gifted and wants to succeed, badly. You can’t say that about many of his peers.

Incidentally, on comms today I nearly wrote “Barov” instead of Bravo. I told the readers this:

I nearly called Bravo “Barov” just then. Barov being Dwayne’s Russian cousin of course

A bored feedbacker wrote in to accuse me of being racist. Have the general public completely lost their sense of humour now?

England v West Indies, 3rd Test, Old Trafford, 5th day

A much improved West Indian performance and suddenly it’s 154 runs or 5 wickets. However, with the last 4 of those real tailenders, Ramdin and Chanderpaul really need to dig in to secure any hope of keeping the series alive until Durham.

Follow the cricket once it starts on Cricinfo and leave your comments below. Though if you have a spare tenner, that’s all you need to get in.

Do it, Shiv


© Getty Images
Modern Test batsmen talk long and hard about ‘playing for the lads’, belittling their own efforts as part of a team collective, which is all very commendable and, of course, a load of old baloney. The best batsmen are selfish and will, more often than not, bat for themselves, which is fair enough. And while they wouldn’t ever wish misfortune on their team-mates, the very best Test innings usually demand that most of the ‘lads’ get out cheaply, while our hero achieves team glory almost single-handedly.

With this in mind, I was trying to think this morning of the best innings in recent memory, where the successful batsman must have stood at the crease during his knock in the second innings thinking, “if I’m out, that’s it”. Laxman and Dravid against the Aussies at Eden Park in 2001 was a great example of one more wicket and it’s over; as was Athers’ 185 at Jo’burg in 1996; or even Mahela Jayawardene’s hundred at Lords’ last year. The problem with being an Aussie batsman is that there is usually at least one other who makes runs too, but Ponting’s rear-guard 156 at Old Trafford in 2005 stands out. I am sure there are many others, not least by Adam Gilchrist, although did they ever avert certain defeat?

My favourite for sheer excitement was Lara’s unbeaten 153 to beat the Aussies at Bridgetown in 1999. If Shiv Chanderpaul goes on to score 160 to win today, will that be even better? Agreed, Harmison and Plunkett are not McGrath, Gillespie and Warne. And there won’t be the same swash-buckling bravado. Besides, he hasn’t done it yet! But could anyone begrudge the West Indies this moment?

England v West Indies, 3rd Test, Old Trafford, 4th day

Yesterday might have been Darren Sammy’s day, but you can’t help but feel that England’s present lead is unassailable. Will Monty Panesar take his turn, or will today break the record for most extras ‘scored’ in a match? Follow the action on Cricinfo and leave your comments below.

Video of Kevin Pietersen losing his helmet

Dwayne Bravo dismissed Kevin Pietersen yesterday, hit wicket, when a bouncer zeroed in on his head, smashing his helmet off which then landed on his stumps. Here’s the video.

Fascinating to see Bravo’s euphoric celebration while Pietersen stands there, stunned and shocked.

Darren DJ Sammy takes seven

Well bowled DJ Sammy. Just watched the highlights, and he bowled much better in England’s second dig; full, straight and intelligently cutting it off the seam. Seven wickets on debut and the first St Lucian to play for West Indies, too. He looks like he’s got something about him. Allied to his rhythmical action and control he’s slick in the field (excellent return catch to dismiss Michael Vaughan).

Best of all, he has some of the most entertaining celebrations I’ve seen in a long while

England v West Indies, 3rd Test, Old Trafford, 2nd day

England were complacent with the bat yesterday, and now rely on Ian Bell to marshal the tail for a good score. Will Steve Harmison reproduce his destructive form from last year? Or will the West Indies overcome their inexperience and demonstrate some steadfastness on the most bowler-friendly wicket of the series so far? Follow the action at Cricinfo and leave your comments below.

Right. So, is anyone else a bit bored?

Was anyone else bored by large parts of today? I was, and looking at the scorecard I have absolutely no reason to be anything other than full of adrenaline. Instead, I just feel “eh” and I don’t know why.

It wasn’t without incident. The period of play when Fidel Edwards steamed in, supported by Jerome Taylor at the other end, was West Indies’ most captivating of the series. Seven wickets, nearly 300 runs and yet I was left with a feeling that nothing memorable happened.

Perhaps it was that no England batsman “went on” to a hundred. Maybe it was West Indies’ laughably awful fielding. It could even just be a form of professional detraction from the emotions of watching your country play. But I’m unsettled by it and think it has more to do with knowing that, in spite of West Indies’ improved display, tomorrow England ought to blow them away. It is utterly depressing seeing West Indies in this state; watching Corey Collymore trundle in like a baying donkey. He was frighteningly quick a few years ago but stress fractures and other nasty injuries have taken their toll. Edwards was severely sharp but, as one “staff” member of the Windies party told me, they cannot risk him bowling more than five overs at a time.

As an England fan, I thought they were distinctly poor today. West Indies did put the ball in better areas (a phrase which, someone recently told me, is absolute nonsense: you can’t put a ball in more than one area at a time! Ah the pedantry of journalism) but England looked distracted and, well, a bit bored too.

Clearly I am talking a load of nonsense. Thoughts welcome.