Ball One – Six of this West Indian team are of Asian origin. In a sense, that is barely a point worth mentioning given the ethnic whirlpool that is the Caribbean: but a majority of such men in an XI does mark something of a change from days in which the likes of Kallicharran, Kanhai and Gomes were the exceptions rather than the rule. There’s talk, not always substantiated, that West Indians look to play basketball and other American sports in which height matters – as it does in bowling. If the West Indies are to return to the top of the tree in Test cricket, they will need to draw on all communities within their nations.
Ball Two – The outfield appears as quick as ever. After all the rain over the last couple of days, that’s quite a feat on the parts of the groundstaff and drainage system, but does spell the end of one of cricket’s more charming wrinkles (in England if not worldwide).
Ball Three – England have not missed Jimmy Anderson with the ball, as Onions and Finn have bowled beautifully without much luck. But Jimmy’s reliability in the slips has been sorely missed, with his replacement, Ian Bell, looking as hapless as he did when batting against Saeed Ajmal last winter. Slip catching is about concentration and confidence and neither should be a problem for a man of Ian Bell’s experience – but it seems so.
Ball Four – Adrian Barath, having fought his corner and ridden his luck, is out LBW on review. In the days before Hawkeye, sight of two stumps was a clear indication that the decision would go against the bowler, the ball deemed to be sliding down legside. Now, under DRS, such deliveries are very often an umpire’s call – and so it was for Barath. Graham Onions does get in very close to the stumps, so he deserves a few LBWs – and, id he stays in the side and DRS stays as it is, he’ll get them.
Ball Five – First ball after afternoon drinks, Marlon Samuels rocks back and cuts Swanny against the spin for four. It was a shot that could only be played, indeed conceived, by a man in complete control of his game. There’s little more pleasurable for a sports fan than to see a talent fulfilled and that’s certainly the case for Marlon Samuels on this tour. What a shame that he doesn’t have five Tests to max out this golden run of form.
Ball Six – In comparison to last year’s tourists from India, the West Indian batsmen are technically much more orthodox, showing the full face of the bat to the ball and driving through mid-on rather than midwicket. The big difference, of course, is that this inexperienced West Indian attack lack the nous to build a Test match innings. Making 40 is one thing; making three 40s in a row without dismissal, is something altogether different.
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