England v West Indies, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge, 1st day May 25, 2012

Problems on display for both teams

West Indies staged a wonderful recovery in the Trent Bridge Test through Marlon Samuels and Darren Sammy on a day that raised some old questions about the limits of England's four-strong attack.

It depends, perhaps, whether you are a glass half-full or a glass half-empty type of person. The glass half-full types will reflect that, from the depths of 136 for 6, West Indies fought back admirably on the first day at Trent Bridge.

It is certainly true that Marlon Samuels and Darren Sammy provided spirited resistance that revived hopes not just for the series but for the future. Samuels, in particular, produced some lovely strokes and provided a reminder of his substantial ability and the generally positive influence of the DRS on our game. It would have been a bitter injustice had his graceful innings been cut short on just 1.

Samuels also produced the best batting performance of his career. While it will take more to silence the doubters - it is consistency that defines a career, after all - it was encouraging that West Indies could provide a decent batting performance without a hugely significant contribution from Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

The glass half-empty types will point out, with some justification, that the ease with which West Indies' seventh-wicket pair doubled the score only served to highlight the under performance of the top order. Apart from Chanderpaul, who was the victim of an excellent piece of bowling - "the one ball in the day that turned" according to James Anderson - West Indies' top five were removed with alarming ease.

Adrian Barath, Kieran Powell and Darren Bravo all flashed at deliveries outside off stump in which no self-respecting top order batsman should have been interested while Kirk Edwards, who has now scored 20 runs in six first-class innings on this tour, left a vast gap between bat and pad. When Samuels said afterwards that "the aim was to score 500", it not only served to reinforce his hunger for more runs, but also showed how far short his top-order colleagues had fallen.

Perhaps the partnership between Samuels and Sammy also highlighted a weakness in the England team. The four-man attack has served England well in recent times: it was good enough to win the Ashes in Australia and good enough to inflict defeat upon an India side ranked No.1 at the time and boasting a daunting batting line-up.

But there are times when it can still seem a man short. There are times, indeed, when the absence of a true allrounder such as Andrew Flintoff (at his best, anyway) is still felt.

In such circumstances, when the pitch is this flat and one of the attack is not at their best, the burden upon Anderson and Stuart Broad becomes too onerous. Jonathan Trott would never claim to be a fourth seamer at this level and it is asking a great deal of any finger spinner, even one as accomplished as Graeme Swann, to fulfil anything more than a containing role on the first day of a Test in England in May.

He had not, remember, claimed a single wicket ih his two previous Tests on the ground. It was telling that England were obliged to recall Anderson into the attack, just 10 overs before the new ball was due. Anderson may be fit and willing, but he also needs protecting.

Part of the problem was that Tim Bresnan struggled to contain the batsmen. He conceded a fraction under four an over and looked, by some distance, the least dangerous of the England seamers. Bresnan has a wonderful Test record - a bowling average under 29 and a batting average over 35 - but, since his elbow operation in December, seems to have lost the nip that made him so dangerous.

While last year he regularly reached the upper 80s or even 90 mph, this year he is often under 80. He may well recapture that nip with more bowling but, with Steven Finn making a compelling case for a place in the side, Bresnan may need a telling contribution with the bat to maintain his place.

Harsh though it sounds, Jonny Bairstow may be in the same position. Bairstow has impressed with just about everything he has done since appearing in international cricket, but the fact is that England missed the bowling option that Ravi Bopara would have provided.

It may prove, in time, that Ben Stokes or Chris Woakes can fill such a role, but there are few men in the domestic game who could claim to offer the selectors a genuine allround option. Rikki Clarke is a much-improved cricketer currently producing the best allround performances of his career and would significantly improve England's slip cordon. But, aged 30, he will surely find it tough to convince all those he disappointed when he had his opportunity.

A glance at the scorecard might convince the casual observer that West Indies took a risk in batting first and that England exploited the moisture in the pitch in the morning session. It is not so. Anderson and Broad bowled pretty well, but there was precious little swing and just a little seam movement available to them. West Indies' top-order just played a series of loose strokes.

This pitch is as flat as anything England experienced over the winter - it is a much-repeated myth that England's bowlers can only be effective in England - and West Indies need to add at least 100 to the score to be near a par total. The cynical might suggest this was a chief executive's pitch: the sort of flat track that guarantees the game will go into a fourth or fifth day. In reality, though, it may be more a consequence of the soggy summer and a groundsman playing safe.

"We weren't expecting it to be 130 for 6," Anderson said afterwards. "We were expecting a hard day in the field and we ended up getting it. The pitch just seemed to flatten out."

There is, perhaps, one danger for England. Despite what scientists tell us, the ball at Trent Bridge - like Lord's - appears to swing more when there is cloud cover. If the weather changes - and in England you are never too far from a shower of rain, however good the forecast for the week - it is possible that Ravi Rampaul, in particular, could gain movement to trouble England's batsman. The resistance of Sammy and Samuels has, at least, raised that possibility for West Indies.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on May 28, 2012, 19:55 GMT

    @zenboomerang on (May 26 2012, 10:04 AM GMT) mate I've said this so many times. I think the thing is people don't see it the same way. If we had a guy the quality of Hussey at 6 I'd say fair enough. I've done all the stats and I don't remember a number 6 of ours coming in and hugely influencing a game.

  • Mark on May 26, 2012, 16:16 GMT

    Yes Paul. I was thinking of Bres reading this article as he scythed through the tail. Maybe he did and it got him going. Anyway, the result was what I expected. 4 wickets went down quite cheaply and visions of 450 became a struggle to pass 350. With Enland batting comfortably you might reasonably expect them to be ahead half way through tomorrow and leaving the West Indies facing a significant deficit. I have seen nothing to change my view that England will win the Test and will be better for the workout.

  • Jackie on May 26, 2012, 15:15 GMT

    'Bairstow has impressed with everything he has done since appearing in international cricket.' Really? Since his ODI debut 41*, his ODI scores have been 3, 35, 9, 2. His Test scores has been 16, 0*. Perhaps Dobell and I differ about the word 'impress' but how can you stretch it to include those scores? Bairstow has done nothing yet in those two forms of the game except for one innings. His T20 record is better but mixed. But 'everything he has done'? Other players have to earn praise and then they don't get it. If Bairstow does impress, fine. But can we avoid the hype before then please? Even hype doesn't quite cover Dobell's claim, turning poor scores into gold!

  • Dummy4 on May 26, 2012, 12:12 GMT

    Moot point now - Bresnan took 4 and unlikely to be dropped after that. As for weather - forecaset is a good one. Temps over 28 degrees can often bring thunder storms. I remember the 1999 WC game against India. Before the cluds started looming it looked great, then, when the humidy rose and the clouds began to form, the ball hooped all over the place. Temp never dropped below 27. THink that might have been at Trent Bridge as well. England wer bowled out by boomerang/banana balls just before a 30 minute storm would have washed the game away. Could happen again

  • Mark on May 26, 2012, 10:33 GMT

    Jyotishman Sharma, I have no issue with England beating poor sides. After all, India and Australia beat enough poor England sides in the past for us to feel no sympathy now. It is better to beat a poor side convincingly than to lose to one. Roll on South Africa and a battle to see who is best. A few people may get a nasty shock (and, if England win, I bet that people like you were on here saying that it was because South Africa were poor!) There are no great sides right now and have not been for more than 5 years, so the door is open to a team to take the bull by the horns and stamp its mark on the game.

  • Roo on May 26, 2012, 10:04 GMT

    @JG2704... England have been blessed with a golden period of bowlers that can bat well, but not all conditions suit just the "fab 4" as bowlers... Sometimes you need that allrounder... SA - Kallis, Oz - Watson, have been good but England already have that in their top bowlers (Broad, Bresnan, Swann)... I am often amused at the conservatism of the ECB/selectors when an extra bowler would often help destroy the opposition... With Prior such a good wicketkeeper batsman why are England so reticent to go for the win?...

  • Dummy4 on May 26, 2012, 9:52 GMT

    Finn, Tremlett, Onions. My my my...the English are certainly not the best test team, period. Its only that they won 4-0 against a team filled with old, beyond-their-prime warhorses. I just hope that WICB allows Chris Gayle and Dwayne Bravo in. It would be much more fun then. God knows who you people will start digging out as future-bowling-greats from your bovine county grounds then...

  • Mark on May 26, 2012, 9:25 GMT

    Bottom line. England will still win this Test. The West Indies will have at least one or two more bad sessions and they will be the deciding factor.

  • Mark on May 26, 2012, 9:14 GMT

    I think that everyone just misread this match. It was assumed that the ball would swing, batsmen would struggle (look at Alec Stewart's preview) and that the same attack would work fine, rolling over the West Indies twice. In retrospect - 20-20 hindsight is a great help - Steve Finn should have played for Tim Bresnan. It is true that Bresnan seems to have lost some magic and may need a spell back with Yorkshire to get it back. However, I can understand why no one wants to drop him until England finally fail to win a match in which he has played: cricketers are too superstitious to do it. However, the ball is still new. It is a new day. And it is not impossible that 4 wickets could fall quickly. In fact, I'd take a small bet on one of the two not out batsmen going quickly.

  • John on May 26, 2012, 8:26 GMT

    As I've said before - Finn should come in for the number 6 batsman and not Bresnan. I can see why they have gone with Bresnan as before this series -and this surprised me too- TB had the best bowling ave,a batting ave of 40 and the 2nd best bowling SR. Obviously both averages and SRs will have dropped considerably.Finn probably is a better bet with the ball but selectors are showing an inconsistency by dropping a bowler who isn't taking wickets when they would not do the same to a batsman who wasn't scoring runs. If Bres is in there to add batting depth then it's riddiculous and we have seen what happens to our number 6 when no one above him has scored. So if Bres(I haven't checked the stats) is now averaging mid 30s with the bat surely having Prior batting at 6 with Bres,Broad and Swann at 7/8 and 9 should be ample and we have the extra bowler (Finn/Onions) for when times are tough . If we had a number 6 that was averaging in the late 40s/early 50s I'd say go for it but we haven't

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