July 10, 2002

Devon Smith flourishes for West Indies A

Devon Smith raced to a career best score as West Indies A made an explosive start to their tour match with Lancashire at Liverpool. The visitors were well placed on 355 for eight before rain bought an early halt to proceedings.

Chris Gayle chipped in with a dynamic fifty, while part-time seamer Ryan Driver claimed his first five wicket haul for Lancashire. West Indies A scored at over five runs-an-over for much of the day, and seemed thoroughly to enjoy their cricket.

Smith, a Grenadian, had struggled in England. The 20-year-old had scored only 94 runs all tour (he has played in every match) prior to this innings. He doesn't seem to have a problem with English conditions - he had an excellent trip with West Indies' Under 19s last year - and this knock should serve him well for the remainder of the tour.

Smith seems more settled at three than opening, and batted with encouraging flair. His unbeaten 167 came from 251 balls with 25 boundaries.

Daren Ganga won the toss and chose to bat, with the West Indians immediately taking advantage of a below-par Lancashire attack. John Anderson's first spell was lashed at eight runs an over. Ganga (11) was a virtual spectator as Gayle plundered 50 from 43 balls. He hit ten fours, the knock a mixture of bludgeoning shots and elegant flourishes.

Keeper Jamie Haynes' neat catch gave Anderson something to smile about, and sent Ganga back to the pavilion. Gayle was bowled by Driver, who also picked up Runako Morton and Ryan Hinds before lunch.

Dwayne Bravo and Keith Hibbert failed to settle, though Hibbert batted over three-quarters of an hour before missing a straight one from left-armer Gary Keedy.

West Indies' own left-arm spinner was in more destructive form. Sulieman Benn clubbed a quick-fire 31 with six fours as Smith opened up after he reached his century with a flurry of boundaries. The left-hander continued with an array of crisp timing; young talent Kyle Hogg was dispatched at over seven runs an over.

Anderson, who exerted more control in the afternoon than he looked capable of in the morning, found Darren Powell's edge to pick up a second wicket. Tino Best joined Smith, and the pair batted sensibly before the heavens opened.

This performance, as well as Sunday's demolition of Yorkshire, will perhaps help the West Indians turn a corner in this tour. Quick-scoring stroke-making is more aesthetically pleasing than dour defence and timid collapses. It's also more Caribbean. Long may it last.