West Indies test series


Perhaps the most obvious pun going around today – and one that I am sure I’m not alone in using. Graham Onions has just taken 5-38 as the West Indies were skittled for 152. Andrew Strauss has enforced the follow on, and – with an hour left today – the very real prospect that play won’t last until Saturday, which is when I’d considered going along to Lords.

The West Indies batsmen have not prospered for a number of years in early English summer conditions, but Strauss and Flower picked a man in form and knew their Onions had the right stuff to make the oppos eyes water. Good to see.

All this followed some most unusual play in which Graham Swann opened the bowling – a unusually innovative (read horrifically village) move – which got Beefy hopping about.

Marvellous stuff.

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Losing a test series to anyone is not great, and losing a series to the Windies is even more not great. Quite how that, plus a couple of one day defeats, has become a crisis in English cricket is beyond me. Truth is that we only just lost the test series, were the better side for all but maybe one or two sessions, and would have won it with a more confident side and a little less caution. On the one day front, the series is tied, and we have a chance to win it going into the final match. It has not been the most fantastic tour ever, but it is certainly not as bad as it could have been.

It is not a crisis, and whatever the press make of Kevin Pietersen’s desire to see Mrs P, or the result of the final match, the negatives should serve as the very necessary wake up call that England very much needed in order that they start performing better again.

So, about 8 days after the Antigua test was meant to have started, the Windies tailend clung on, and blocked their way to an unlikely draw. Sure, the pitch at the ARG remarkably lasted the full five days, and a fantastic test ensued, however, having seen England strive valiantly, it was hard to to accept a draw.

Sure, losing time to rain in the morning, didn’t help, and the decision not to enforce the follow-on will now be debated, but we remain no better informed as to how good England are at the moment. Sure, the Windies stood up manfully to the task and seem to be a far better team than the one England have dessimated over recent series, but England’s bowling attack have been made to look a little toothless.

India’s monumental run chase before Christmas caused worries, and this only compounds them. We rely too much on Flintoff, and when he isn’t 100% we appear no more penetrative than the Kiwis. I’m concerned.

I love this. Not only has England racked up a sizeable first innings score at the Antigua Recreation Ground (and I am very much loving Chicky’s disco between overs), it is very apparant that England and the West Indies have been reduced to playing village cricket.

My reasoning? Only the true village cricketer will be able to discuss the trials and tribulations of playing cricket on what – in the winter – is a football pitch.

Yes, normally we only have to deal with a bobbly outfield, sometimes having to move the goal posts, and muddy goalmouths after a wet April. In the West Indies, on the other hand, the actually allow the football players to play on the square.

In fact, at this very moment in time, Freddie is steaming in, trying to pitch the ball on what was the line of the centre circle. This, it appears, to cause the ball to shoot along the floor… or shoot off a length.

Proper village, proper cricket, great fun. Faaaaaaaaaantastic.

There is nothing like a long day sprawled on the sofa, enjoying some test match cricket from the West Indies. This, unfortunately, is nothing like a long day sprawled on the sofa, enjoying some test match cricket from the West Indies. That is because there is no test match cricket from the West Indies. That is because the outfield is unsuitable for cricket, so there is nothing to watch. 10 balls is all they managed.

Play has been abandoned for the day, and probably the entire test, because the outfield is dangerous. Even assuming there is a pitch available at the Antigua Recreation Ground – the only possible alternative – it would take three days for all the TV kit to move.

£40 a month for Sky and no cricket, a joke!

Hmmm. I haven’t posted anything about the test match in Jamaica so far as have been enjoying watching it. Some proper old fashioned test cricket it was too. England grafting to a par-ish total in the first innings, stylish West Indies batsmen then tonking them round the park, and then the batting being dessimated by some high quality fast bowling.

Putting aside the fact that we were skittled for 51, a total which invites derision from all parts of the cricketing world, there are some major problems with the England side currently, and they probably won’t be fixed through wholesale changes to the team.

Sure Cook and Collingwood need runs, but would it improve the side by dropping them? Who would replace them anyway? What’s going on with Monty? Would Adil Rashid have made any difference?

The Village Cricketer advocates two changes for the next test. Shah for Bell and Swann for Panesar. Those changes could only improve the team at present.

So, a 3-0 victory over the Windies, would probably have been 4-0 but for bad weather at Lords. Were England fantastic, no, were the Windies poor, yes. Chanderpaul, Sammy and perhaps Bravo apart, the Windies were a pretty woeful bunch. Was this the worst Windies side to visit England ever? I reckon so. Cricinfo reviews the papers and scores the players here.

The ODI series should be more even, but I would be very much surprise if the Windies win more than just the one match.

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