Benn strikes but West Indies' batsmen struggle
West Indians 80 for 4 trail Leicestershire 182 (Benn 4-31) by 102 runs
West Indies got their tour underway with a mixed day at Grace Road, bowling out Leicestershire for 182 in two sessions before rather losing their way and closing on 80 for 4. As if to spite Lalit Modi and his claim that the weather mitigated against holding the IPL in England at this time of year, the sun shone all day and even the tourists felt at home enough to risk sleeveless sweaters.
The star of the show was the 6' 7" spinner Sulieman Benn who took 4 for 31, aided by two sharp slip catches from Devon Smith, as Leicestershire threw away a good start, losing their last nine wickets for 105.
A below-strength West Indies side, without resting or IPL-committed big names, struggled in the field for most of the morning after Denesh Ramdin had lost the toss.
Fast bowler Lionel Baker, who would have been playing for Leicestershire as their overseas player had he not been called up, trapped opener Tom New leg-before early on, but after that they looked listless. It was only in the penultimate over before lunch that Benn struck for the first time, bowling Josh Cobb with a quicker ball.
After the break, Leicestershire, who were themselves missing some first-team regulars, were a different side. Matthew Boyce, who had looked good for his 45, slog-swept Benn to midwicket where Lendl Simmons held a hang-wringing catch, James Taylor fell fifth ball to one that kept low from Darren Sammy, and then Boeta Dippenaar edged Benn to slip. From 77 for 1, Leicestershire had slumped to 108 for 5.
Carl Crowe and Wayne White cheered the decent crowd with a seventh-wicket stand of 37, but Crowe's dismissal, the first of three wickets for Jamaican seamer Andrew Richardson, triggered another collapse as the last four wickets fell for 16.
The West Indians had a visible spring in their steps as they headed off, but their batsmen found the going every bit as hard. The man who did the early damage was 18-year-old quick bowler Alex Wyatt with an opening spell of 2 for 15 off seven overs.
Dale Richards fell first with a rather lazy cover drive which was easily held at point, and then Ramnaresh Sarwan, who had been in such good form against England in the Caribbean, nicked an outswinger to slip.
Smith followed in slightly bizarre circumstances. James Allenby limped off with a side strain after one ball of his fifth over, and Jigar Naik was summoned to finish the over. With his second ball he had Smith leg-before back on his stumps.
Simmons and Narsingh Deonarine appeared to have seen West Indians through to the close, only for Harry Gurney to remove Deonarine in the last over of the day.
"We bowled poorly at the start but pulled it back," John Dyson, the West Indies coach, admitted. "Early on, we bowled too many loose balls, and we learned we must put the ball into the right areas."
While most pundits thought the pitch looked full of runs at the start, Dyson was far less impressed. "It's an early-season wicket which looked like it was going to be a flat one but there were too many balls which rolled along the ground," he said. "There was variable bounce and no-one has looked comfortable batting on it. I wouldn't call it a good cricket wicket.
"We had some balls today from a very early stage that hit something and just rolled along the ground well wide of the keeper on both sides of the wicket, and there were other ones that pitch in the same spot and sit up."