England v West Indies, 1st Test, Lord's, 3rd day May 19, 2012

West Indies only a little bit lost

History will give a bland explanation of this match but the West Indies have had plenty to take heart from

Just as you cannot be a little bit pregnant or a little bit dead, so a team cannot a little bit lose. Results can sometimes provide a sweeping generalisation of a game and, viewed as a bald statistic years later, can provide a misleading picture of the ebbs and flows of an encounter that could, but for a moment here and there, have concluded differently.

It may well prove the case with this Test. Whatever happens on the final two days - and while England hold the upper hand, let us not forget Jamaica 2009 or Abu Dhabi 2012 - West Indies can take heart from some aspects of their performance.

There were moments on the third day when West Indies played admirably and threatened to fight their way back into the game. But on each occasion two poor passages of play cost them and provided a reminder of how narrow the margins between success and failure can be.

At first they impressed with the ball. In the first 25 overs - 25 overs that occupied more than two hours as a slow over-rate robbed spectators of five overs of cricket over the course of the day - West Indies' seamers produced sustained spells of good quality bowling that earned five wickets. While England were always going to establish a lead, it looked for a while as if West Indies might limit it to little over 100.

It was not to be. Confronted with Graeme Swann - admittedly a man with claims of being the best regular No. 10 England have ever had - the visitors momentarily abandoned the strategy that had brought them success and started to bowl too full and too wide. While Swann's 30 runs may not seem significant, they allowed England to add 55 runs for the tenth wicket. It not only helped stretch England's lead past 150, it allowed Ian Bell - who came into this Test under just a little bit of pressure - to complete a confidence-restoring half-century and will have sapped the spirits of the tourists just as they started to rise.

While no-one would claim the tourists are the finished article, they are not so far away from tangible reward as is sometimes suggested.

It was a session that underlined two important factors. Firstly, it proved how valuable England's lower-order runs can be and highlighted an area in which West Indies are weak. For while West Indies have the tail of a diplodocus, England have the tail of a Manx cat.

It also highlighted the importance of concentration and discipline. West Indies had started the day so well, only for half-an-hour's sloppy cricket to let them down. Darren Sammy and Fidel Edwards both conceded more than three an over; Kemar Roach more than four. Later, even when the England attack were reduced to something approaching impotency by the almost impenetrable Shivnarine Chanderpaul and the defiant Marlon Samuels, the bowlers nevertheless ensured they gave little away. James Anderson conceded fewer than two runs an over, the others conceded well under three. Such statistics do not necessarily tell a tale of superior skill; they might also tell a tale of superior discipline and concentration.

The second passage of play in which West Indies impressed came when they began their second innings. It appeared their openers had negotiated the new ball with some aplomb. Even though Adrian Barath was dismissed by a beauty - little if any fault can be attached to the batsman - the tourists had an opportunity to build a substantial second innings total.

But the loss of Kieran Powell and Kirk Edwards without the addition of another run was a crushing blow. It was the manner of their dismissals that really grated. Powell, who had resisted sensibly for an hour, failed to heed the fact that England had placed two men back for the hook and pulled the ball to the fielder as if providing fielding practise, before Darren Bravo called Edwards (who has now had five first-class innings on this tour and scored just 13 runs) for a single only to leave him hopelessly stranded as Jonny Bairstow pounced with a direct hit. Not long afterwards Bravo left a delivery that drifted in and hit his off stump. While the arm-ball from Swann was a beauty, it was hard to avoid the conclusion that West Indies' batsmen had played a substantial part in their own downfall.

If West Indies go on to win - they are only 35 runs behind, after all - England may equally rue a narrow escape for Chanderpaul when he had just two. Attempting to guide a delivery from Tim Bresnan towards third man, Chanderpaul instead edged tantalisingly wide of Anderson at third slip. It may yet prove to be the key moment of this Test.

There is a flip side to such encouraging moments, for West Indies in particular. They are also infuriating. They also provide a reminder of what they could achieve if they were able to sustain their good passages of play without the fatal poor hours intervening. It is a pattern that has plagued them over the last year or two, with the fact that Chanderpaul remains unbeaten underlining how reliant they remain upon him.

There will be one or two concerns for England. Most pertinently, they seem no nearer to working out how to dismiss Chanderpaul. Bearing in mind the South Africa batsmen which will confront them soon - a line-up including Amla, Kallis and de Villiers - and that may be causing a few anxious moments for Andy Flower and co.

Whatever happens over the final day or two, West Indies have shown they have the players to compete with the No. 1 ranked Test side in their home conditions. While no-one would claim the tourists are the finished article, they are not so far away from tangible reward as is sometimes suggested.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on May 21, 2012, 20:48 GMT

    @Randy Bridgeman on (May 20 2012, 21:08 PM GMT) Good post , but don't think truth gets in the way of thinking from the fantasists

  • Mark on May 20, 2012, 21:34 GMT

    C'mon West Indies. Its really good to see the west indies play well for a change. They have really fought hard in this test match. They are in with a very good chance of victory against England. Who are in my opinion over rated.

  • Dummy4 on May 20, 2012, 21:08 GMT

    I'm getting sick and tired of the calls for the selection of Gayle, Bravo, Sarwan, Nash, and whomever. Lest short memories prevail, these players represented us for the most part of the last decade and what were the results? Loss after loss, sometimes in 2,3 or 4 days. Very little commitment, discipline, caring, pride, fight etc. from the team including the senior players (except for Nash) mentioned above. Very little in their play to suggest professionalism. Yes, we want the best plaers on our team but they must be fully commited. For some fans, it's as if these players are talented youngsters who should be given a chance at Test level for the first time. Now who is to say if these players are selected again, we will do better or even win? We have a group of basically inexperienced players who are trying their utmost quite unlike their predecessors. The only way to gain experience is to play regularly. Let's support them. They will come good eventually. Time to rally around this team.

  • Len on May 20, 2012, 20:49 GMT

    Here we go again! WIndies put up a fight, WHICH IS THE LEAST WE SHOULD EXPECT FROM THEM AS PROFESSIONALS and they are being ridiculously talked up. Let us see how they fare on the last day and then assess where we are going from there. The 2nd innings dismissal of Sammy was stupid to say the least, what was he trying to do? I an not interested in any criticisms of Chanderpaul, he's the only player that has continued to display any professionalism as a player over the last 17 years, when we have been rubbish. Barath, Powell, Edwards and Bravo will continue to struggle against pace or spin until they start to use their feet when batting and though Samuels made 86, he did not go on to get a big score, (his feet movement letting him down again). For WInidies supporters, I say again, less of the shouting your mouth off and let's see how they get on the final day, by the way I am a WIndies supporter!

  • Pallab on May 20, 2012, 20:17 GMT

    gayle dyane smith darren bravo chanderpaul dyane bravo ramdin russel taylor/sammy roach shillingford rampaul/narine

    This team will beat all the teams .. WI has so much talent. It is such bad team selection...

  • John on May 20, 2012, 19:03 GMT

    @Sellier on (May 20 2012, 13:05 PM GMT) Thanks for your constructive comms and well done for being prepared to diss England but remember that oh so awesome SA attack could not defend a 300+ against Australia (one of the teams you describe as trash) so it's not always a gimme. It is the vogue to say that Eng do not deserve to be number one esp after the UAE series but maybe you could check the stats , like how many series have SA actually won as opposed to drawn and how many of their recent series have been at home , not to mention how many of the sides they have beaten in the last few years have been top 4. Losing 3-0 to a 6th ranked side is not the form of a number 1 side but beating a side who were number 1 4-0 to become number 1 is. I'm not going to say how the Eng/SA series will go. They may well beat us and if they do they deserve their number 1 ranking

  • John on May 20, 2012, 18:49 GMT

    @Empty-Sequence on (May 20 2012, 17:45 PM GMT) The whitewash against was the series before last - so it's no a "just got" event and our bowlers did well enough to win 2 of those 3 tests had our batsmen not been so feeble

  • Dummy4 on May 20, 2012, 18:47 GMT

    I was really hoping & praying that Bangalore would lose & my prayers were answered. Now lets see if Gibson will call up Gayle to play in the rest of the test series vs England. @ least that would give Strauss Anderson , Broad & co more to think about than just putting the ball there or there about & getting edges & bowled vs Bharat, Edwards & Powell. He could also help Marlon in the spin department as well.

  • aditya on May 20, 2012, 18:32 GMT

    go on windies!!!!! souls of ur previious glories will help u to win this match

  • Dummy4 on May 20, 2012, 18:26 GMT

    181 to get it maybe a shocker to many but w/i have a good chance of pulling this off remember always have respect for runs on the board we are close to start getting results that will surprise many people in criciteking circle we will get it right england is not the #1 team to me south africa is that team s/a will beat them this series coming go w/i go

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