Ball One – With rain likely to intervene on Days Four and Five and with a first innings lead secured yesterday, England looked to press on in the morning session. Whether by default or design, almost as soon as a batsman looked to force the pace, ambition’s debt was paid and a wicket given up, Bairstow, Prior and Bresnan all returning to the pavilion after being more aggressive than they needed to be. Meanwhile, Ian Bell blocked plenty of half-volleys in a circumspect knock which saw him add just 33 runs to his score in two hours play. At lunch, we cannot tell if Bell called the session correctly. If he is left high and dry on 55 or so, he will rue missing scoring opportunities this morning; if he can accelerate with England’s highly competent tail and drive the lead to 180 or so, his morning’s forebearance will be vindicated.
Ball Two – Darren Sammy has received plenty of plaudits for his captaincy, particularly the discipline he has brought to cricketers too often too individual in their approach towards playing for their region (not their countries). After a difficult day yesterday, Sammy’s boys had their heads up all morning and bowled a tight line and length on or about off stump. The “you miss, I hit” method was enough for a nervous Jonny Bairstow and an overly-confident Matt Prior and the smart ball to a Number 8 (just tempting enough for a man keen to feel bat on ball) saw off Tim Bresnan. If the rain stays away, the West Indies are unlikely to get away from Lord’s anything other than one down, but they are showing they have the patience and tactics for Test cricket if not, in the absence of so many stars, the talent.
Ball Three – It was once said that Swanny does not bat, he hits fours and, against anything other than hostile pace, this is true. Whilst he’ll never provide much beyond the cameo, the runs come so quickly and at a time when the scoreboard is telling us that the innings is near its closure, that Swanny’s innings seem more valuable than they are. Today’s was only 30, but it gave England their first spell on top all day and put a bit of a strut into the step of his colleagues when they took to the field soon after.
Ball Four – Adrian Barath’s extra cover drive is as good as any in the game, but he can get tangled up with the short ball and can over-commit to deliveries outside off. The diminutive opener showed commendable patience leaving tempters from Anderson and Broad, but, despite that, he had already been dropped by Bresnan in the slips before he edged a good one from the culprit to Matt Prior and was gone just as he was getting going. At just turned 22, Barath has plenty of time to build a defence to go with his attack, but does he have the desire and, given the fact that he is being forced to learn in the cauldron of Test cricket, will he have the opportunity? In 25 Test innings, he has only batted more than two hours on five occasions – openers can only learn at the crease.
Ball Five – There’s a lot of tosh spoken about positive body language and the like, but there’s a lot of good stuff talked about making things uncomfortable for the batsmen in the middle. England get in tight in the field, swarming around the batsmen, shying hard at the stumps (as Steve Waugh insisted upon. even as a young man at Somerset). This proactive fielding gains England a double benefit: it means the dot balls mount up, building pressure and allowing craftsmen like Anderson and Swanny to bowl six balls at one batsman, setting them up like Glenn McGrath; and it brings panicky run outs, particularly when the batsmen are inexperienced. Jonny Bairstow’s throwing out of Kirk Edwards was no fluke – KP had been close to doing the same thing to Adrian Barath a few minutes earlier – and shows how hostile an environment England create.
Ball Six – This is a West Indies side in transition, but no team can carry a top three who have just 28 matches between them and average 24, 21 and 44. Someone has to take responsibility, with at least one of the two experienced men (Chanderpaul and Samuels) accepting a slot up top. Few Tests are won from 86-3 and 36-3 and they look like par scores for the callow batsmen sent out first by Darren Sammy.
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