A fight­ing Test se­ries at last

Jamaica Gleaner - - SPORTS - Tony Becca

THE LAT­EST West Indies Test se­ries in Eng­land was al­most what the doc­tor or­dered. In fact, it was al­most a re­peat of the West Indies in Eng­land in 1950, and it may once again be the be­gin­ning of bet­ter things to come.

In 1950, the West Indies went to Eng­land un­her­alded, they lost the first Test, and then, in a per­for­mance of things to come, re­cov­ered to win the se­ries.

This time, the Windies went to Eng­land also un­her­alded, also lost the first Test, also won the se­cond Test, but failed to con­tinue and lost the se­ries.

The Windies did not win the se­ries but they played well. They played with pride through­out, a pride that left West Indians, cer­tainly here in Ja­maica, al­most happy once again and, ac­cord­ing to re­ports, glued to the ra­dio through­out the coun­try.

In the years im­me­di­ately pre­ced­ing this tour, you could hardly find a Ja­maican, or a West In­dian, in­ter­ested in the score.

Fol­low­ing the amaz­ing vic­tory at Head­in­g­ley, how­ever, the vic­tory which brought the scores level after the dis­ap­point­ment at Edg­bas­ton, the fans were in sev­enth heaven. Ev­ery­body knew the score. The team, they said, had “turned the corner”, and they started to ser­e­nade the play­ers as they dreamed of things to come.

Even after that, at Lord’s, where they lost again, and in the fi­nal anal­y­sis, eas­ily at that, the fans seemed to have taken it on the chin. The feel­ing was that it was tough luck, and that the Windies will, shortly, come again.

There is still work to do to iron out some flaws in the tech­nique of many of the bats­men, es­pe­cially when play­ing de­fen­sively, and to get the bowlers to bowl a con­sis­tent line and length so that can at least try to con­trol the flow of runs in times of need.

The fact of the mat­ter is that, apart from the first Test match, the Windies played like tigers. They played like play­ers who re­ally wanted to do well, and if they con­tinue to play like that, if the ‘peace’ con­tin­ues be­tween the board and the play­ers, and if the board can con­vince the play­ers to be more pa­tri­otic, they will un­doubt­edly come good again, if not as quickly as to­mor­row.

The Windies, after los­ing the first Test by an in­nings in­side three days, and after los­ing 19 wick­ets in one day’s play, gave it every­thing, ex­cept in the field, in the re­main­ing two Test matches, and in con­di­tions for­eign to them.

In all my trav­els to Eng­land, we have

never played in Septem­ber, and I can­not re­call it ever be­ing so cold.

The vic­tory at Head­in­g­ley may have been for­tu­nate due to Eng­land’s se­cond in­nings dec­la­ra­tion, but to hunt down 322 in the last in­nings of a Test match, 317 on the last day, was sim­ply amaz­ing.

Kraigg Brath­waite, 134 and 95; Shai Hope, 147 and 118 not out; Ke­mar Roach, Shan­non Gabriel, and Ja­son Holder bat­ted and bowled won­der­fully, and the hope is that, apart from Gabriel and the no-balls, they will go on to serve Windies cricket for many years.

Shai Hope went to Eng­land with an abun­dance of tal­ent but with lit­tle to show for it. Fol­low­ing scores of 15, 4, 147 and 118 not out, 29, 62, he is now, how­ever, the best bats­man on the team. His bats­man­ship is first-class, and his driv­ing, through the cov­ers and through the mid-on and long-on ar­eas, is out of the top drawer.

FAILED TO PRO­DUCE

To be hon­est, how­ever, and although Kieron Powell ended the se­ries on a fair note, most of the other play­ers failed to pro­duce.

Brath­waite was good at Head­in­g­ley, but Kyle Hope was a dis­ap­point­ment, so too was Ros­ton Chase; Jer­maine Black­wood, who is a bril­liant fielder but needs to set­tle down as a bats­man; Shane Dowrich, both as a wick­et­keeper and as a bats­man; and Alzarri Joseph, who nev­er­the­less re­mains a promis­ing fast bowler.

With Brath­waite, Powell, Shai Hope, Chase, Black­wood, Holder, Gabriel, with­out the no-balls, and Roach con­tin­u­ing on the right path, with Dowrich do­ing jus­tice to his early prom­ise, with Dar­ren Bravo ex­pected back, and with the likes of bats­men Shim­ron Het­myer, Bran­don King, and Su­nil Am­bri in wait­ing, to­mor­row ap­pears bright if the play­ers con­tinue to show the pas­sion and the fight of the past few weeks.

It would be even brighter if the Windies could toughen up Deven­dra Bishoo, or if they could find one whose skills are as good and as var­ied as Shadab Khan or Rashid Khan.

It was a tough sum­mer for the Windies, what with the cold weather and play­ing a Test match in Septem­ber.

It was, how­ever, a dif­fi­cult se­ries for cap­tain Holder.

The fail­ure to take the se­cond new ball, the pink ball, when it was due, un­der lights and in the cold of Edg­bas­ton and with four paces at his dis­posal, was ques­tion­able, and so was his de­ci­sion to bowl Bishoo for a few overs only after se­lect­ing him as the spe­cial­ist spin­ner in the team for Head­in­g­ley.

Bishoo was also un­der-bowled at Lord’s, but in that case, Holder must have felt like a very un­lucky cap­tain.

After se­lect­ing Bishoo again, after win­ning the toss in the Lon­don sun­shine and de­cid­ing to bat, no doubt aim­ing for a vic­tory which would have sur­pris­ingly and sat­is­fy­ingly handed him the se­ries, the weather sud­denly changed, and in min­utes, Lord’s was like Edg­bas­ton and Head­in­g­ley. He must have missed play­ing Joseph.

Kraigg Brath­waite

ON THE BOUND­ARY

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