Lions quicks shine as West Indies labour
England Lions 40 for 1 trail West Indians 147 (Bravo 51, Brooks 3-23) by 107 runs
Given the start West Indies have had to their tour things could be said to be looking up. The full squad is finally available after Narsingh Deonarine arrived in the country and they managed the majority of a day's play for the first time. However, in reality, that time on the field did not allay any of the concerns about their batting heading into the Test series as they stumbled to 147 all out - albeit in tricky conditions.
Yet they are the sort of the conditions very likely to greet them at Lord's next week and their audition against the Lions attack was from convincing. Only Darren Bravo, with a determined and increasingly fluent 51, offered significant resistance after the top order was blown away and the tail folded without much fight. From England's point of view it was another display of the fine bowling resources on offer to them - Stuart Meaker was the best on show - but somehow the visitors need to find a way of putting 300 on the board. If they can do that their bowling attack is good enough to keep the contests even.
Given all the recent poor weather, the fact that play was only delayed by an hour was unexpected but it was no surprise that James Taylor, the Lions captain, inserted the visitors and neither that they struggled to combat the moving ball, although in mitigation it was their first extended period in the middle. An inexperienced top order was always going to be up against it, as they will be during the Test series.
Last week at Hove, where there were only 34 overs in three days, the West Indian top three did not flourish and it is a major weakness. On this occasion they were back in the pavilion with 16 on the board and when Shivnarine Chanderpaul departed cheaply even three figures appeared distant.
But they cannot be relying on Chanderpaul all the time and Bravo gave the English audience their first glimpse of his ability with an increasingly positive display, especially considering the conditions. He battled at the start of his stay, reaching 6 off 44 deliveries before three boundaries in four balls kick-started his innings shortly before lunch. He continued to drive well after the break, reaching fifty from 86 balls, before top-edging a pull off Meaker, who bowled with impressive pace and troubled the batsmen throughout.
Bravo had added 75 with Marlon Samuels, who was reacquainting himself with first-class cricket following a spell in the IPL, but two overs later Meaker added a further dent to the recovery when Samuels played slightly away from his body, although it was another good delivery. Meaker, who has taken 11 wickets in two Championship matches this season, soon added Shane Shillingford to his tally as the tall offspinner lost his off stump and gave Meaker three wickets in 15 balls.
The earlier success had gone to the hometown boy. Jack Brooks, wearing his trademark head band (although in England red and white rather than Northamptonshire maroon), had to bowl into the wind and produced a strong opening spell. Adrian Barath, who had twice edged over and through the cordon, was the first to fall when he fended off the back foot to third slip. Brooks' second came courtesy of a fine diving catch by Ian Bell at second slip to remove Kirk Edwards, who is captaining the tourists here after it was decided to rest Darren Sammy.
Between Brooks' successes Jade Dernbach also made his mark when he found the edge of Kieran Powell to give Jonny Bairstow a catch. Both Dernbach and Brooks were replaced after exacting six-over spells but the pressure was maintained by Meaker and Matt Coles. The former was particularly impressive, bowling with hostile pace and getting the ball to jag back at both Bravo and Chanderpaul.
However, it was Coles who bagged the key wicket of Chanderpaul although not with one of the many good deliveries. Instead, Chanderpaul tried to bail out of a half-hearted pull stroke and lobbed a catch to mid-on. It was a notable first Lions scalp for Coles but rare for Chanderpaul to offer such a gift.
Coles claimed his second when Denesh Ramdin drove to gully playing a loose drive without footwork when conditions demanded more circumspection and the equal share of the success continued with Brooks and Dernbach cleaning up the innings.
The signs were not promising for a West Indian fightback when Fidel Edwards began the Lions reply in horrid fashion with three consecutive no-balls, the last of which took Michael Carberry's inside edge into the stumps. Eventually, though, Edwards put his foot behind the line and trapped Joe Root lbw with one that scooted through low.
Carberry opened his scoring with a pulled six off Ravi Rampaul but lived a charmed life, edging short of third slip off Edwards and being dropped in the gully on 9, off Kemar Roach. Nick Compton looked more assured as the West Indian bowlers struggled to locate a consistently full length. They have not got long to find their range.
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo