Ball One – On commentary, David Lloyd wonders why Gayle and Smith are wearing helmets on a slow, low pitch against medium pacers. It’s a valid point, but one that I suggest may have two answers. There’s always the chance of a top edge into the side of the head, which is nasty and best avoided. And batsmen may feel at home, following routines, doing business as usual wearing the helmet. There’s much talk of visualising as a technique to aid concentration in sport, so, if a batsman has always visualised starting the innings in a helmet, then why make things different?
Ball Two – As an aside, and maybe because I have spent my working life in environments in which one meets gay people all the time, I have always thought that if sports stars come out as gay, nobody would bat an eyelid. Steven Davies, Surrey and England wicketkeeper, has done so and nobody seems bothered, aside from praising his honesty and willingness to take on the burden of being the first openly gay professional cricketer. Unlike footballers, cricketers do travel to parts of the world where attitudes may not be as enlightened as they are in South London – I trust Steven Davies will be treated exactly as would Matt Prior or Craig Kieswetter, sledging and all. “Be like Mike” was a sports marketing slogan that worked: there will be a few young gay cricketers this morning knowing that they can “Be like Steven Davies” and reach the very top – and that’s a fine thing. Now Steve, let’s see a few nurdles to complement your hitting over the top.
Ball Three – Chris Gayle is not a man for the reverse sweep, the Dilscoop, the nurdle into the gaps, but he still scores about as fast as any player in the game. Of course, not every player has Gayle’s power, but, with bats constructed as they are these days, clearing the boundary is no big deal (five England players managed it yesterday – five!). After a spell of batting innovation coinciding with the launch of T20, orthodoxy is reasserting itself. Frustration did get the better of Gayle in the end – he may enjoy the bigger challenges to come rather more than bashing amateur bowlers.
Ball Four – Kieron Pollard is renowned for being the biggest hitter in world cricket, his power generated from a cruiserweight’s build and a free-flowing bat. He has usually been held back by the West Indies for a short sharp blast, but perhaps his promotion to Five with more than ten overs remaining marks a change of strategy for Darren Sammy’s men. That has to be the right tactic – no point in leaving Pollard’s violence in the pavilion.
Ball Five – I understand Peter Borren’s decision to bowl, but with four down and nearly 300 to get, it’s game over. If the Netherlands were 34-4 setting a target, the game would be nearly over, but not quite as a batting collapse is much more possible than its bowling / fielding equivalent. If minnows bowl first, they are waiting for the batsmen to get themselves out, as there is no real pace nor spin to take wickets. Bowling second, there’s at least a chance of scoreboard pressure doing its job – chasing small targets can be tricky; taking six wickets for 300 runs or restricting a side with only six wickets in hand to under 7.5 per over cannot be tricky.
Ball Six – Reviews on the subcontinent are always worth a shout, as the ball is almost never going over the top. Unless the spinner really rips it – and few do these days – pitching on and hitting on usually means the ball will be projected to hit the stumps, though umpires may be understandably reluctant to give batsmen out on the front foot. I suspect fielding captains will become more and more enthusiastic about reviewing.
The Tooting Trumpet, whom you can often find at Testmatchsofa.com and on Twitter at @garynaylor999