Stokes an­guish

> Eng­land’s new leader comes off sec­ond best in bat­tle of the cap­tains with Holder

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport - By Nick Hoult CHIEF CRICKET COR­RE­SPON­DENT

For­get about this be­ing an an­ti­sep­tic ex­er­cise in ful­fill­ing broad­cast deals. There was in­tense, com­pet­i­tive Test cricket yes­ter­day, ex­em­pli­fied by Ja­son Holder em­phat­i­cally win­ning the first bat­tle of the cap­tain all-rounders to put West Indies in charge.

With the ball hold­ing sway, this is set up to be a low-scor­ing, tight match un­less bat­ting be­comes eas­ier in the sunny weather fore­cast for the week­end.

West Indies are in a po­si­tion to en­joy those con­di­tions, at 57 for one in re­sponse to Eng­land’s 204, with their bats­men hang­ing on in tough con­di­tions af­ter their bowlers had ear­lier proved that the hosts’ top order weak­nesses had not eased dur­ing lock­down. Ben Stokes may face crit­i­cism for bat­ting first in good bowl­ing con­di­tions but West Indies are on top be­cause of their skill and pre­ci­sion with the ball and some limp dis­missals.

Holder led from the front and seized the mo­ment for his team, pick­ing up Stokes’s wicket dur­ing a spell af­ter lunch that flipped Eng­land’s in­nings from 154 for five to 174 for nine. Holder roused his team with six for 42 and only Im­ran Khan has recorded bet­ter cap­tain’s fig­ures against Eng­land. But the real nub of Holder’s con­tri­bu­tion was his four-wicket burst just when Eng­land were be­gin­ning to bris­tle, with Stokes and Jos But­tler form­ing a coun­ter­at­tack.

West Indies were rat­tled. Ke­mar Roach had dropped Stokes at fine leg on 14 be­fore lunch, and heads dropped when Shar­marh Brooks fluffed a sim­ple catch at ex­tra cover when he was on 32. Gift­ing chances to Stokes loses Tests. The in­nings was at a tip­ping point.

With But­tler and Stokes carv­ing runs at five an over, ex­ploit­ing a tir­ing Shannon Gabriel, Holder brought him­self back on to ex­ert con­trol.

He ad­mit­ted af­ter­wards his model is Glenn McGrath, a bowler of sim­i­lar height and pace. Many try to em­u­late McGrath. Few man­age it as con­sis­tently as Holder these days. Holder keeps it sim­ple, ham­mer­ing away monotonous­ly at off stump and com­bines it with lat­eral move­ment that brings him his wick­ets. He swings the ball more than any­one else in world cricket, ac­cord­ing to the track­ing data held by an­a­lysts Cricviz, and his ca­reer has rock­eted since 2018 as a re­sult.

It took Holder 31 Tests to col­lect 56 wick­ets and they cost 38 runs each. But over the past 10 games he has taken an­other 56 at an av­er­age lower than 12, an as­ton­ish­ing im­prove­ment he puts down to con­cen­trat­ing on the ba­sics of line and length and when to use his in­swinger. The bet­ter run­ning of West Indies Cricket has also en­abled him to con­cen­trate on cricket, not pol­i­tics.

Stokes had walked out of his crease to dom­i­nate Roach and tried the same against Holder but slug­ging it out is trick­ier against a bowler of greater height and bounce. His sec­ond ball from Holder nipped past the out­side edge, the third clipped it as Stokes played across the line and was caught be­hind.

An ab­so­lutely per­fect de­liv­ery

ac­counted for But­tler in his next over, and Holder rev­elled in dis­miss­ing Jofra Archer for nought for his fifth wicket, us­ing a re­view af­ter the orig­i­nal de­ci­sion had been turned down.

When Mark Wood edged to gully, Holder’s job was done. His six-over spell was four for 14 but the wicket burst of four for three runs in 14 balls was the killer punch.

The Covid-19 pause was al­ways go­ing to make the re­turn harder for bats­men than bowlers. Phys­i­cally, bowl­ing is drain­ing and more dan­ger­ous on ten­dons and bones but bats­men need rhythm and time at the crease. Net­ting for 45 min­utes at a time can­not repli­cate bat­ting in a Test, where con­cen­tra­tion has to last for hours. Only matches can do that.

Joe Denly will prob­a­bly last the se­ries. His move to three sig­nals he is ahead of Zak Craw­ley and ahead in the sur­vival stakes when Joe Root re­turns, but he badly needs runs. The fact that he bats pa­tiently, chew­ing up balls and bat­tles away for team-mates can only be used as jus­ti­fi­ca­tion for keep­ing his place for so long. He needs a heavy-scor­ing se­ries but be­ing beaten for pace and hav­ing his off stump sent fly­ing thanks to a big gap be­tween bat and pad was not a good look for a Test No3.

Rory Burns looked re­as­sur­ingly solid. He scored his 1,000th run as an opener when he reached 21, be­com­ing the first English­man to do so for Eng­land since Alastair Cook in 2007. But he was one of sev­eral Eng­land bats­men who failed to con­vert a start, miss­ing a fuller ball from Gabriel who was pitch­ing it up fur­ther than on day one.

Denly’s dis­missal gave Craw­ley his chance but he was stiff-legged and upright as he was pinned lbw by Holder. It was the sec­ond time Holder had over­turned a not-out lbw de­ci­sion and, in to­tal, the um­pires had five de­ci­sions re­versed, show­ing it is not just play­ers who need matches to be on their game.

Ol­lie Pope ex­uded class im­me­di­ately, with fours off Holder through mid­wicket and ex­tra cover, but per­haps he was just too im­petu­ous and too keen to stamp his mark. He dan­gled his bat out at a wideish ball from Holder he could have left, try­ing to steer it to third man when he should have let it go harm­lessly by. Sud­denly, a bat­ting line-up with­out Root looked very vul­ner­a­ble and, ul­ti­mately, But­tler and Stokes could not mount a sus­tained res­cue act.

With the ball swing­ing and the pitch dif­fi­cult to gauge, Eng­land sniffed wick­ets but John Camp­bell frus­trated James An­der­son by twice over­turn­ing lbw calls be­fore it was third time lucky. Eng­land bowled well enough and have plenty of pace and An­der­son’s wiles to bail out the bats­men to­day but Holder has the game in his grasp.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from UK

© PressReader. All rights reserved.