West Indies' fragility reappears against brave Scotland
West Indies might have beaten England in the recent one-day series, but an old and unwelcome ghost briefly reappeared today at Clontarf in Dublin as Scotland ran them desperately close in the third match of the Quadrangular series. They had their captain, Chris Gayle, to thank with a commanding 85, rescuing them from a dramatic collapse in which they lost 5 for 13 in under three overs.
"I guess you see what I'm talking about when playing against these teams - you can never take them for granted," Gayle said. "You have got to give Scotland credit, I thought they played really well and the spinners did a pretty good job and kept their calm and cool. But it's good to get it of the way."
Gayle and his opening partner, Devon Smith, were cruising nicely at 95 without loss before Majid Haq, the offspinner, was introduced. Bowling flat and fast, he appeared to turn a seemingly placid surface into a minefield, removing Smith for 32 in the 20th over before bowling Runako Morton and Lendl Simmons with consecutive deliveries in the 24th. From 120 for 1, they collapsed to 133 for 6 until Gayle finally found support from Darren Sammy. As well as Scotland bowled, however, the shot selection from West Indies' middle-order left a lot to be desired.
"[The collapses] are something we've got to improve upon, but it's not going to happen overnight," Gayle said. "It's up to the individuals to really assess the conditions as quickly as possible, and they should be able to sit from the outside and see what's going on out there, and make the necessary adjustment when they come out to bat."
Scotland have had a torrid last six weeks, culminating in the resignation of their coach, Peter Drinnen, last week, and Watson, their captain, was understandably delighted to have run West Indies so close.
"This is a pretty good cricket team and to run them so close is excellent," he told Cricinfo. "To be honest, I'm slightly disappointed we didn't win. We gave ourselves a great opportunity in those last five overs. They were roughly 100 without loss and sometimes we'd have rolled over and conceded - but the spinners did a great job.
"I knew that wicket would suit us. I knew it was going to be slow and it wouldn't suit the seamers. losing the toss and having to bat first was almost a blessing on that wicket, and we had three spinners picked in the side and we had the conditions in our favour. Even when they were going great guns against the seamers I knew in the back of my mind that if we could just pick up a couple of wickets, and had a bit of luck go our way, we could run them close.
"I always knew there'd be a bit of fragility in the middle of the order, even though they're slightly inexperienced."
With a large crowd expected here on Saturday for West Indies' match against Ireland, and West Indies' brittle bones exposing themselves again, it is a mouthwatering prospect.
Will Luke is a staff writer on Cricinfo