Stokes must learn from coun­ter­part and stick to Plan A

> Cap­tain should fol­low lead of Holder by keep­ing to a strict line and length if Eng­land are to find a way back into the Test

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport | First Test - By Scyld Berry chief cricket writer

It is a game of sev­eral firsts. The first Test be­hind closed doors. The first time an English sea­son has started with a Test, and the first time since 1994 that two English um­pires have stood in a home Test – with­out the hap­pi­est re­sults so far.

And as West Indies em­bark on day three only 147 runs be­hind Eng­land with all of nine wick­ets in hand, Ben Stokes will need to be­come in­fin­itely pa­tient, both as a leader and bowler, if he is not to start his cap­taincy with a de­feat.

Stokes has al­ready en­joyed the share of luck which great gen­er­als need: while bat­ting and set­ting up the brief counter-at­tack with Jos But­tler, he was dropped twice, on 14 and 32.

But this luck is run­ning out, as the weather fore­cast sug­gests day three will be sunny and a bat­ting day for the tourists – as­sum­ing you can call a visit to a coun­try in var­i­ous phases of lock­down a tour.

The pa­tient role which Stokes has to play on day three could not have been de­fined more clearly by his coun­ter­part, Ja­son Holder. Holder’s was an ex­cel­lent ex­hi­bi­tion of a kind which has tra­di­tion­ally been as­so­ci­ated with English cricket: put the ball on fourth stump at no great pace, swing it mostly out then sur­prise the bats­man with an in­swinger, or let it kiss the sur­face and seam.

“My pa­tience has def­i­nitely in­creased,” Holder said in the “player zone” at the end of the sec­ond day. “Pa­tience was the thing I was prob­a­bly lack­ing,” he ad­vanced as the cause of his re­cent el­e­va­tion to be­come No1 all-rounder in the Test rank­ings.

Ob­jec­tiv­ity would add an­other ma­jor dif­fer­ence: the West Indies’ re­ver­sion to their tra­di­tional strat­egy of four pace bowlers in­stead of Ke­mar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Holder and a spe­cial­ist spin­ner. He never had the pen­e­tra­tion to be the third seamer of three, but he is a cap­tain’s dream – his own – as fourth seamer.

As a bats­man, Stokes lost pa­tience. He had up­set the bowlers’ full length by com­ing down the pitch and driv­ing them in the “V”. Then he de­cided to ex­pand his reper­toire by clip­ping Holder’s off-stump half-vol­ley to leg, in­stead of stick­ing with that sig­na­ture shot, which makes the non-striker wary of back­ing up too far in case of a re­bound run-out.

If the Ageas’s dry and un­even

pitch has not al­tered overnight, Stokes has to avoid Plans B, C and D: B for bounc­ers, C for chop­ping and chang­ing the field to make it funky, and D for driv­ing Jofra Archer into the ground, which is what hap­pened in New Zealand and ended in his el­bow in­jury.

These are unique cir­cum­stances as the first game of this sum­mer, and pace bowlers who are over­bowled here must be more prone to break down.

It has to be Plan A, of a strict line and a fullish length, which Holder per­son­ally demon­strated at the crux of Eng­land’s in­nings. Stokes had been dropped twice, West In­dian heads had gone down and his other bowlers had started bowl­ing shorter and wider. Holder set a model ex­am­ple of how to rally troops by word and deed.

The crux of West Indies’ first in­nings is li­able to come when Jer­maine Black­wood en­ters, bent on havoc. Kraigg Brath­waite and Shai Hope are not go­ing to take the game away in a few overs, but if they can blunt Eng­land’s pace bowlers un­til the ball is old, Black­wood is un­ortho­dox enough – a bats­man who comes off one in­nings in five or six – to take the game away.

An­other chal­lenge for Stokes to­day will be his han­dling of his off-spin­ner.

West Indies’ only left-han­der, John Camp­bell, has been dis­missed. So, it is go­ing to be a ma­jor test of Dom Bess, only 22, to see if he can hold the line against West In­dian right-han­ders not averse to swip­ing, and of Stokes’s judg­ment in how long he keeps Bess on.

It was re­as­sur­ing for Eng­land that Bess made a neat 31 to ease him into this se­ries and il­lus­trate his na­ture’s steadi­ness.

Judg­ing when to re­view um­pir­ing de­ci­sions is less tax­ing now that teams are al­lowed up to three un­suc­cess­ful re­views each. Holder was spot on ev­ery time he asked for a re­view, get­ting four um­pir­ing de­ci­sions out of four over­turned.

It was be­com­ing rather em­bar­rass­ing by the time the two Richards, Illing­worth and Ket­tle­bor­ough, had seen five de­ci­sions in a row over­turned.

If um­pires are even rustier than bats­men and bowlers, there could be a few flash­points when recre­ational cricket fi­nally re­turns this week­end.

Holder’s was an ex­cel­lent ex­hi­bi­tion of a kind tra­di­tion­ally as­so­ci­ated with English cricket

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