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

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Ali on May 27, 2012, 13:05 GMT

    Lets keep criticizing Gayle and Sarawan for all those losses...

    Don't Criticize the Selectors who also had Darren Powell and Suliman Benn, both averaging over 40 runs per wicket.... and when the WI had Gayle Sarawan and Chanderpaul who were the other batsmen? I expect the WICB expects 3 guys to make 250+ in an ODI and contribute 250 runs in a TEST every single game?

    Please be reasonable.. Is it Chanderpaul, Darren Bravo and Roach's fault we are losing right now? or is it Barath, Powell, Brathwaith and Kirk? We could say right now WI has a bunch of star players and the are still losing ...

    but what people don't say is the "truth".. when will we ever see 11 star players on the SAME TEAM ..... ?

  • Ricardo on May 27, 2012, 12:31 GMT

    I dont know if anyone realizes ,but this cricket is trending...i could have guessed the England would have lost 4 wickets this morning...no doubt they will lose a further two and set and westindies will lose two wickets tomorrow morning when they bat again. the top three men must now be dropped for the west indies....chanders has to come good cause samuels and sammy already scored their runs.

  • Vasantha on May 27, 2012, 10:40 GMT

    WI kept losing badly with all the 'stars' so this team is doing better than the last few WI teams. Much better than India last year too. Sammy is the difference, even if he is not a star; remember Brearley? Please read about Gayle/ Sarwan test stats in England (Atherton in The Australian and I suspect other newspapers). Scoring a test century in England is not so easy and the stars did not do it in many attempts last time around, so let the stars stay away and fine tune their short-span skills.

  • anthony on May 27, 2012, 9:07 GMT

    @ Balbir, almost every player that you would like to see come in the team is a proven failure, Sarwan has failed when needed, Taylor & Bishoo both have poor bowling records, and what has deonarine done that has convinced you he is test material? The man did'nt even score a domestic century this season, and only had one 50 against oz, while his bowling is average at times, but generally mediocre. The WI dont need that many changes, as things stand however they dont deserve to play test cricket, but with a few improvements to the team, they can actually be a decent side. I agree that Gayle has to come back, and that Bravo sr should at least be in the squad, Fudadin is unproven and imo needs to prove himself at the first class level before he comes in. Sammy needs to go, along with F edwards, and Best. Powell needs to go back to domestic cricket for now, and the likes of Nash, Russell and Narine need to come in. The jury is still out on Shillingford.

  • Mark on May 27, 2012, 9:06 GMT

    It is panning out just as I predicted. The last four wickets fell quickly and England started to build a big total in the same single-minded way as usual. The only surprise is that Alistair Cook didn't make the most of his two let-offs and go on to a big score. I am still convinced that there is another really bad session in the WEst Indies in this match. Potentially they could be 200 behind tonight with 6 sessions to go: not too many sides can recover from that sort of position so, England need to make their position count today.

  • Jason on May 27, 2012, 9:06 GMT

    @Andy Plowright, interesting points, I was wondering if you like me see hints of how england were just after Nass and Fletcher took over. Nass was very much a maligned character during the first couple of years of his tenure as captain, but he put the back bone back into to the team, which ultimately lead to Vaughan taking over a team that was well drilled, while Fletch fought the board room battles, sometimes Publically, ex pros critisised from thier Ivory towers and droppped players that were told a few home truths grumbled though the papers via the usual 'Close Friend' routine.

  • John on May 27, 2012, 8:49 GMT

    Just one thing re Sammy throwing his wicket away. Did Sammy not not get out by playing the sort of shots that he was playing throughout his innings? Surely his runs are a huge bonus and was not expected to do what he did to begin with. Finally , were WI not losing tests pre Sammy? I got the idea without looking at the stats that WI were in a worse place pre Sammy/Gibson. And re Gibson - never heard any probs re England players relationship with Gibson. Maybe because Eng players are used to and respect hard work/discipline

  • Dummy4 on May 27, 2012, 8:21 GMT

    The Sammy-Gibson slating continues with its usual level of banality. Griping at Sammy for throwing his wicket away is ludicrous. Considering the pressure the guy is under, to go out and score a ton is a fine performance and I can excuse the shot that brought about his downfall. Sammy tries to captain a side that is massively inexperienced, beset by internal player conflicts, governed by an incompetent national board whilst domestic WI cricket is played on very poor pitches that don't prepare players for international cricket whilst individual island boards operate with their own agenda. People were touting Shillingford as someone to cause problems: well Shane, it's a lot harder bowling on a road than some of the garbage WI wickets you and your fellow spinners have had.

    Sammy and Gibson alone can't sort out the problems in West Indies cricket and should be commended for getting them playing at the level they have done, considering everything against them.

  • Hildreth on May 27, 2012, 7:50 GMT

    I agree with Mr. Dobell although I'm a strong Windies fan. Let me first CONGRATULATE cpt Sammy on his maiden test century which is a clear sign that his batting has come of age. He and Samuels deserve all the CUDOS for this inn which came at a time when the team was in dire straits. However the way it all ended for Sammy was disappointing going for his usual hoick over deep square despite a fielder being posted there. This one careless shot allowed the English back into the match and instead of an intimidating 400 plus score the inn fizzled out for 370. SAMMY and SAMUELS batted SUPERBLY on the 1st day but on the 2nd failed to capitalize and put Windies in a FORDIDABLE position. The bowling with the exception of RAMPAUL was weak and indisciplined. Also I don't see much STRATEGY or even CONSISTENCY in FIELD- PLACING. Eg a simple PLAN of bowling one side of the wicket and setting the fielders to suit like the English seems absent. GIBSON and Sammy must FOCUS more on these PROBLEMS.

  • Rizwan on May 27, 2012, 7:35 GMT

    Of course Sammy is a very energetic character & plays the game with passion. One can bring up his bowling average which is a bit better than some of the current proper bowlers. But partial stats can be misleading as his strike is 67.4. Now Sammy's batting isn't that much dependable in test cricket, though he can be trusted to make a quick 20 or 30. If we keep praising Sammy & want to see him take up a place of a bowler or batsman, then we are setting the bar very low for a team like WI.

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