Almanac Cricket: England v West Indies – First Test Review

 

What a sight to behold it was to see Kemar Roach sprinting in to bowl to Rory Burns to resume Test match cricket on Wednesday night. Of course, the rain came in on the morning of day one, but the slight delay was nothing in comparison to the four month absence of top flight red ball cricket we’d endured.

 

Test cricket in an empty stadium is still a fine product on TV. Some memorable moments have occurred in recent years in empty, soulless venues in the UAE where Pakistan have sadly been forced to play. Australia’s epic draw in Dubai, led by Usman Khawaja and Tim Paine in 2018. New Zealand’s 4 run win in their first Test against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi later that year, leading to a 2-1 series win. White ball cricket, especially Twenty20, will look ordinary without a crowd. Test cricket is the format for the COVID era. These are the times to promote and give prominence to the World Test Championship.

 

The rain delay on Day 1 gave Sky Sports the time to play a discussion on the Black Lives Matter movement featuring Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent. It was powerful and confronting TV. The emotion from Holding certainly struck a chord and deserves to be viewed the world over.

 

 

The salute before play started, both teams kneeling around the boundary perimeter, the West Indians each wearing a black glove, was just as poignant.

 

Just 17.4 overs on day 1, England 1/35 after Shannon Gabriel jagged one back into Dom Sibley’s stumps. Gabriel, a late inclusion to the squad after a rush to prove his fitness, knocked over Burns and Denly early on day 2 to have the home side 3/51. But it was the touring captain Jason Holder who gave the Windies the ascendancy, taking the next 6 wickets, the only real partnership coming from stand in England captain Ben Stokes and keeper Jos Buttler, the pair adding 67 for the 6th wicket. England all out 204, the West Indies 1/57 at stumps.

 

There are no stars in the West Indies batting outfit right now, but solid contributions throughout saw the tourists with a 114 run first innings lead. Kraigg Brathwaite averages only 33 after 60 Tests, but he can blunt a new ball. His 65 off 125 balls, while in no way memorable, was in every way valuable. Roston Chase and Shane Dowrich also ground out precious runs. Ben Stokes took the bowling honours with four wickets but it was the evergreen Jimmy Anderson who was most impressive, hooping the ball with accuracy, he deserved better than 3/62 from his 25 overs.

 

Resuming on day 4 at 0/15, England finished at 8/284 at stumps, 170 runs ahead. A hard fought day of quality Test cricket. Gabriel was the main wicket taker, but it was skipper Holder again with the crucial scalp, removing Stokes after he and 22 year old Zak Crawley had threatened to take hold of the game with their partnership of 98.

 

Jofra Archer added a few handy runs on day 5 before his team was all out, the visitors requiring an even 200.

 

200 looked a mile away when the Windies slumped to 3/27, as well as having opener John Campbell retired hurt after being struck on the toe by Archer. But there is some steel in this Carribean team, a group of solid cricketers who have been together as a group without their freelance Twenty20 players for a few years now. Jermaine Blackwood, aided by Chase and Dowrich, dug in, worked hard, put together partnerships despite a menacing spell from Archer. Blackwood, only on this trip after regulars Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo decided not to tour, had been out of the team since 2017 apart from playing as a concussion substitute in 2019. This was his finest moment in the maroon helmet, hitting 12 fours in his 95, being dismissed with just 11 runs required.

 

Fittingly, Jason Holder was at the crease when the winning runs were hit. Like the great Pakistan teams over the years, the West Indies best times have come under strong, unifying leadership. He’s no Sir Frank Worrell or Clive Lloyd yet, but Holder is the best leader this group of countries has had in 30 years. Well spoken and a fantastic cricketer, his statistics line up equally well as an all-rounder when compared to Ben Stokes.

 

England and world cricket in general owe this West Indies team a great deal of gratitude for agreeing to tour. Spending 4 weeks quarantined and having two solid tour games (even if they were amongst themselves) show the value of good preparation in foreign conditions. Maybe a template of Test cricket tours going forward?

 

Test cricket it was great to have you back. A memorable Test for many reasons. Let’s hope we can get through the English summer uninterrupted.

 

England v West Indies at The Rose Bowl, Southampton

 

England 204 (BA Stokes 43, JC Buttler 35, JO Holder 6/42, ST Gabriel 4/62) &
313 (Z Crawley 76, DP Sibley 50, BA Stokes 46, ST Gabriel 5/75) lost to

 

West Indies 318 (KC Brathwaite 65, SO Dowrich 61, RL Chase 47, BA Stokes 4/49, JM Anderson 3/62) &
6/200 (J Blackwood 95, RL Chase 37, JC Archer 3/45)

 

West Indies won by 4 wickets

 

 

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About Luke Reynolds

Cricket and Collingwood tragic. Twitter: @crackers134

Comments

  1. Daryl Schramm says

    Thanks for posting Luke. Was following the test via scoreboard only and occasional highlights. Apparantly the “catches win matches” came to the fore again. Saw the excerpt at the end of the video on Offsiders on iview last night. Made a mental note to follow up further which your post has allowed me to do. Also saw 4C from Monday night last night. Another must watch in my view.

  2. Hi Luke
    Strange feeling, with cricket being played in these bizarre times! Thanks for the report. I didn’t get to see any of it unfortunately (was in hospital and unwell over that time), but will try and see the following matches. More importantly, perhaps, for me at the moment, are the Black Lives Matter issues and the interview with Michael Holding and Ebony Rainford-Brent. Just so good that more people are speaking out and let’s hope the media coverage and intelligent and productive dialogue continues. Take care.

  3. Thanks for an excellent summary, Crackers.
    At, effectively, 4/27 I thought the Windies were absolutely no chance to get to 100, let alone 200. It’s not like they had any batsman of note in the middle or lower order. However, Blackwood’s innngs was gritty, and there was no way Holder was going to give England a sniff by throwing away his hand.
    I was fortunate enough to be able to watch the final session, it was absorbing.
    Test cricket is the greatest game.
    I could not believe that Broad was left out after the twelve months that he has had. A ridiculous decision, and I note there are now calls for chairman of selectors Mike Smith to resign.
    The Final Word podcast guys did an excellent interview with Ebony Rainford-Brent. To hear where she came from, and how hard she had to work to get to the top, was enlightening indeed

  4. Ta Luke, i forgot to check channel 501 last week. No point having the cricket channel if you don’t watch it !

    You’re right about Holder’s captaincy. The last few years are the best they’ve looked since the halcyon days. Our victory over there in 94-95 ended their great era. When the end came, a few of the greats played on for another decade or so. Ambrose, Chanderpaul, Lara & Walsh all played into the early 2000’s. Though these chaps were champions the teams they played in were a rabble. Holder’s team(s) has not had the champions but are better teams.

    I’ll make sure i try to catch some cricket from the northern summer but in this time of Covid 19, open up, loosen restrictions too early, then…………………………………………… As a health professional working in Melbourne it’s all too familiar.

    Stay safe.

    Glen!

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