Posted by: tootingtrumpet | July 21, 2020

The Final Over of the Second Test – England vs West Indies

Old Trafford’s builder

Ball One – Stokesing up the hype

There’s a time in every great sports star’s life when everything just bends to their will – indeed, it’s that time that characterises them as a great, and not merely a very good (as t’were). Ben Stokes may not yet have the numbers (maybe he never will in the traditional currencies) but he is building a portfolio of performances in which the game simply adhered to his requirements. Ball beat bat continually while he made 176 in tough conditions; his first innings NeilWagnering of the West Indies middle order looked in vain until it produced the crucial wicket of Kraigg Brathwaite; and his slash and burn second innings produced a near optimal result in the circumstances. Ben Stokes is a great player all right.

Ball Two – Broadly correct

A few years ago, I was commentating on Stuart Broad playing in the West Indies and I couldn’t understand why he was jogging in and stopping the speedgun at around 80mph as the ball floated down the wicket. We all knew he was a streaky bowler, but the magic looked a very long way off. He was hurt by his omission from the First Test (any player would be) but went public (few would do that) loading up the pressure to deliver. After 19 fruitless overs, he needed to back up his fighting talk with a knockout blow or two. Thence, he bowled 4-2-2-3 to torpedo the first innings and delivered 15-5-42-3 in the second. Leg pumpingly good!

Ball Three – Dam the Shannon door on Friday

Everyone loves a wholehearted cricketer and few fit that description better than the West Indies’ big quick, Shannon Gabriel. Though clearly running on empty, he kept coming in, bowling fast and making life uncomfortable for England’s batsmen. But, like an ageing heavyweight who knows the last thing that goes is his punch and that a puncher always has a chance, sometimes the best decisions are made in the corner. Whether he should have started this Test is one such – surely he won’t start the next.

Ball Four – Best foot forward

The last words I would have said to each batsman as they left the changing room would be “Get forward!” Stokes’ bouncer attack showed how much effort was required to get the ball even armpit high and very few deliveries leapt, though a few squatted. Maybe it’s still early season (two tension-filled Tests may have made us complacent about the rustiness of the sides), but, especially with captains’ inexplicable reluctance to post short legs, surely batsman must play forward and take LBW and bowled out of the bowlers’ weaponry. You might get hit, but you probably won’t.

Ball Five – Gloomy about Manchester

Old Trafford seems to have been under development for about as long as Donald Trump’s tax returns have been under audit – and the work-in-progress is about as ugly. The beautiful Atkinson Grimshawy old pavilion has been swamped by sightscreens and corporate box glass and the rest of the ground looks like the product of a Lego Movie fever dream. Where is the identity, the focus, the cricketness? The multi-purpose event venue may keep the beancounters happy and it may even be less ugly in real life, but on television, the ground of Laker’s 19, Viv’s 189 and Botham’s 118 is a mess.

Ball Six – Friday I’m in love

The cure for the lockdown blues proved to be a couple of tight Test matches with a decider set up for Friday. I’m always keen to praise the players for their efforts in entertaining us, but more than ever this time, with protocols to follow and (no doubt) some long hours in hotel rooms. And also to the backroom and venue staff and even the media. without whose commitment none of this would have happened. Most gratitude goes to Jason Holder, who could have led his team by staying home, but he didn’t. He put his Wisden Trophy on the line and it’s still there now. Pace Marlon Samuels, I salute you Sir.


  1. Lovely to read, and though I’ve only been able to watch brief highlights, I fully agree. Especially pleasing to see Broad retaining all his hunger and backing up his words with deeds, and Stokes of course matured in Durham so knows all about tough batting conditions…

    • Cheers!

      So much to admire about England – as much as there was to admire about WI in the last Test.

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in: Logo

You are commenting using your account. Log Out /  Change )

Google photo

You are commenting using your Google account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s


%d bloggers like this: