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West Indies' top order has failed consistently against England and something will have to change to give them any hope in the final Test
Nagraj Gollapudi at Trent Bridge
May 28, 2012
Marlon Samuels stood there at the non-striker's end. Head down, motionless. His helpless and sorry figure summed up the terrible state of West Indies batting so far in this series. The previous delivery, Ravi Rampaul, West Indies' last man, had gone chasing an away swinger from James Anderson, edging into the hands of the third slip. That meant Samuels missed out on scoring consecutive centuries in the same match by 24 runs.
This was the second time in the match that Samuels, who had lofted Graeme Swann out of the ground for 16 runs, including two straight sixes in the previous over, was left stranded in such a frustrated position. In the first innings, it was his captain Darren Sammy, who having compiled a resilient maiden century, played an irresponsible pull shot to be caught in the deep at a crucial juncture. Samuels and Sammy had re-built the West Indies house after the early collapse on the first day. West Indies could have crossed the 500-mark but Sammy's departure only hastened the visitors folding up the first innings at a good, but not good-enough total.
West Indies were not in a similar position today, but it takes just that bit of application and determination to turn a corner. Samuels is the best example of that theory working. Unfortunately none of his top order batsmen had learned from him, as well as their own mistakes.
Consider this: in the four innings played in the series so far, not one among the West Indies' top order has managed to score a half century. But the more incredulous fact is that the West Indies top-four comprising Adrian Barath, Kieran Powell, Kirk Edwards and Darren Bravo have scored an aggregate of just 203 runs in the two Tests. Samuels, on his own, has managed 310 runs.
At Lord's, Barath had survived two hours on the first day to return not out at lunch. But as soon as he returned to crease, he went and pushed at the ball which he had left alone all morning. In Nottingham, he was clueless about his position and committed to playing the balls once again he should have let go. In the second innings at Lord's, Powell had shown his weak mindset when he took on Stuart Broad, who had tempted him to go for the pull. The previous delivery, Powell had been alerted by his batting partner Shivnarine Chanderpaul, about two fielders being placed in the deep, yet Powell consciously fell into the trap.
Edwards' bad luck at Lord's, when he was run out inadvertently for no mistake of his in the second innings, did not go away as he reported sick yesterday and survived just two deliveries, recording his second duck. His form in the first innings of both Tests has been no better with the England fast bowlers exposing cracks in Edwards' poor defence easily. Bravo had been done by Chanderpaul's erroneous call on the first day of the series last Thursday, but on Sunday he repeated the same mistake Powell had made minutes earlier, chasing a wide delivery outside the off stump delivery and edging.
|"This group of players has been criticised because of the decline of West Indies cricket. You come to England, you are playing the No. 1 team in the world, it is difficult to expect that you are going to come and beat them." West Indies coach Ottis Gibson|
Not only does it reveal a poor choice of shot selection from the West Indies batsmen but it also highlights a weak temperament. Ottis Gibson, West Indies coach, said the problem was a "combination of both" technical and mental skills: "It is not entirely a technical thing. It is being able to repeat your skill over and over again. That is what top teams in the world do: they test your technique; they test your character; they test your mental strength. Perhaps that is where we are falling short," Gibson said. "They are doing the hard work but they are not doing it for long enough."
Gibson said West Indies would utilise the two-day tour match in Leicester to not only give more batting time to some of their ailing batsmen but also probably reshuffle the batting order to encounter the top-order failure. He did not rule out moving one of the pair of Samuels or Bravo to No. 3 in place of the struggling Edwards. "We have got a good week off to go back and sort of reflect on where we are the moment and what we can salvage out of the rest of the series with one Test match to go and look at all the different options that we have available; may be moving Marlon or Darren to three or Darren."
Across the two Tests, West Indies have won many sessions of play while fighting hard in others. A good example came during the first session on the third morning when the pair of Ravi Rampaul and Kemar Roach put West Indies back in the game after the bowlers had been dominated by the pair of Andrew Strauss and Kevin Pietersen on the second afternoon. "We were outstanding yesterday to get eight wickets for 169 runs considering the way we had bowled the day before where we leaked runs from both ends," Gibson said.
He said by blocking one end, West Indies had successfully suffocated England captain Andrew Strauss, who found it hard to accelerate once he had scored his century. "We made it tough for him and then that caused him to get out," Gibson said. But his batsmen had not learned when they were put under the scanner.
"When England make it tough for us, we get out far easier than they do. That is a concern. But we have shown that when we do the right things we can cause problems to the England team but we are not doing it consistently enough at the moment."
Gibson said though he was disappointed that West Indies had lost the Wisden Trophy, he would still not be disheartened by the critics, who were expecting his team to beat a strong side like England. "This group of players has been criticised because of the decline, if you like, of West Indies cricket," Gibson said. "You come to England, you are playing the No. 1 team in the world, it is difficult to expect that you are going to come and beat them. We challenged them at Lord's, we challenged them here for periods as well but not for long enough to create any winning opportunities."
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