England v WI, 2nd Test, Trent Bridge, 2nd day May 26, 2012

West Indies undermined by sloppiness

The visitors suffered a number of self-inflicted blows that undid their fine recovery in the second Test and excuses won't do

It is the self inflicted injuries that will smart most. We all knew that this West Indies side was not the most talented to tour England. We all knew there would be days when the top-order came unstuck and the bowling looked a little thin. But we also expected a team that worked hard and made the most of their ability.

It has not been so at Trent Bridge. While there have been periods of encouragement for West Indies - a feature of their recent Tests - this game may be defined by moments of sloppiness that have turned potential match-winning positions into match-losing positions. It rarely pays to take too much for granted in cricket but England, with eight wickets in hand and a batsman's dream of a pitch upon which to gorge their hunger for runs, could - and should - have a substantial lead by the end of the third day. West Indies may well have to bat far better in their second innings if they are to avoid defeat.

The galling aspect of that scenario is that West Indies could - and should - have been in a much stronger position.

On the morning of the second day, they had a chance to establish a match-dominating first innings score. Resuming against a new ball 10 overs old, West Indies' seventh-wicket pair saw off the opening spell from James Anderson - still irritable despite a night's rest - and Stuart Broad and could look forward to a perfect day for batting. England's bowlers were tired, the ball was becoming soft and both batsmen were well set.

Instead, however, Darren Sammy fell for a sucker punch. Moments after completing a maiden Test century - a super, counter-attacking innings - he pulled a short ball from Tim Bresnan directly to Kevin Pietersen on the square leg boundary. It was a careless, unworthy end to a fine innings and it precipitated a decline that left West Indies at least 100 short of a par total.

It will not do to say "that is the way Sammy plays". His main role was to support Marlon Samuels. Sammy had to keep his adrenalin in check. Having clawed his side back into the game, he needed to make it count.

The return of Ravi Rampaul greatly strengthened West Indies' attack. Despite his somewhat portly appearance, he can deliver long spells and the delivery he produced to dismiss Cook was a beauty

Worse was to follow. If the tourists were to have any hope of fighting their way back into the Test, they had to strike early. They almost did, too: twice Kemar Roach found the edge of Alastair Cook's bat and twice Denesh Ramdin held good catches. But on both occasions it turned out that Roach had over-stepped and Cook was reprieved. While it might, as Oscar Wilde so nearly said, be considered unfortunate to bowl one no-ball, to bowl two in such circumstances must be considered carelessness.

Most bowlers deliver the odd no-ball, of course, just as most batsmen play the occasional poor stroke. But Roach has made a habit of over stepping of late. He did so eight times in his 15 overs on the second day here. He did so 18 times at Lord's. He did so six times in the Lions game at Northamton too. Indeed, he has delivered at least one no-ball in all but two of the 19 Tests in which he has played.

Nor is he alone. Fidel Edwards was also guilty of over-stepping four times at Lord's - Andrew Strauss was dropped at slip off one no-ball - and eight times against the Lions, while even Shane Shillingford, the offspinner, bowled three no-balls against the Lions.

It is a statistic that tells of a lack of attention to detail and reflects poorly on the coach, Ottis Gibson. Such problems should have been eradicated in net sessions long ago.

There were other self-inflicted blows: several mistakes in the field, some loose bowling from Sammy and Shillingford and, on the first day, the weak batting of the top order. West Indies are better than this and, when they come to reflect on this tour, they may well conclude that they did not make the most of their opportunities.

It is a picture that could be expanded to take in other problems within Caribbean cricket. We know that the region continues to produce players of rare flair and talent, but we also know that they fail to make the most of them. Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Andre Russell and Sunil Narine could all be available for West Indies in the third Test at Edgbaston if only there was a will from all sides to make it happen. Everything else is a detail.

It is true that West Indies' recent record, even with all their "star" players, is modest. But that only underlines the failure of successive WICB and team management regimes to make the most of the resources at their disposal. It is their role to create an environment in which the players perform to the best of their ability. There is little evidence they are doing that. Allen Stanford, before his involvement came to an abrupt end when he was convicted of a multi-billion dollar investment fraud, did something the board have been unable to do: he harnessed the substantial ability that exists within the region and produced a fit, unified team that excelled with bat, ball and in the field.

"We didn't bat as were supposed to this morning," Sammy admitted afterwards. "The plan was for Marlon and myself to see out the first hour and to get a big score of over 450. We gave our wickets away at the end and Cook was very lucky - or we were unlucky - to twice be caught off the same bowler off no-balls. It's disappointing. It is something Kemar and Ottis will work upon."

It was not all bad. The return of Ravi Rampaul greatly strengthened West Indies' attack. Despite his somewhat portly appearance, Rampaul can deliver long spells (his first was 11 overs; two before and nine after lunch) and the delivery he produced to dismiss Cook - edging to the keeper for the third time in an hour at the crease - was a beauty. This may also prove to have been a breakthrough series for Samuels.

It would also be a gross injustice not to praise the England performance. It is true that this pitch is so batsmen-friendly that, in years to come, the bowlers of both sides will wake up in a cold sweat having suffered flashbacks, but the batting of Strauss and, in particular, Kevin Pietersen was, at times, outstanding.

Strauss produced arguably his best innings since the Brisbane Test of 2010. He outscored Pietersen for the first 100 runs they added and, cutting beautifully, pulling nicely and, crucially, also driving better than for some time, reinforced his return to form.

"Sometimes batting feels difficult," Strauss said. "With a few runs under your belt it's easier. I'm delighted to be in form and determined to make the most of it. It's nice to feel back in form and as a captain it's great to contribute and lead from the front."

It is worth remembering one thing, however. By this time in May 2009, Ravi Bopara had already scored three Test centuries against this opposition in the first five months of the year. By mid-August he had been dropped. There are much tougher tests to come for Strauss and his team.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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