<
>

Slow batting, sloppy catching hurting West Indies

Darren Bravo dropped Mushfiqur Rahim on 25 WICB

It was nothing more than to be expected against opponents whose record of 69 defeats in their 84 Tests includes 36 by an innings.

Bangladesh's confidence had been crushed by heavy losses in the three preceding ODIs. Their best player, Shakib Al Hasan, was under suspension, and they chose two promising young spinners for their debut in the team's first Test since February.

For all that, West Indies' victory by ten wickets in the first of the two Tests, in St Vincent, was in spite of themselves. Success has been a rarity for some time but the interim head coach Richie Richardson and those around him could hardly be satisfied at the manner of this result.

Apart from Darren Bravo's five snapped up in slips and short leg in the first innings, the catching was atrocious, the slothful batting of the fourth-wicket pair on the second afternoon thoroughly bizarre, the field setting as incomprehensible as it had been in the earlier series against New Zealand.

The result was built around the opener Kraigg Brathwaite's typically resolute 212, which underpinned a strong total of 484 for 7 declared, and the persistent bowling, in particular, of Kemar Roach, Sulieman Benn and the pacy Shannon Gabriel on the kind of lifeless pitch that continues to weaken West Indies cricket.

Bowling coach Curtly Ambrose acclaimed their "commendable effort of patience and discipline in tough conditions". They kept going in the Caribbean heat through two successive days, relieved by the straightforward offspin of Jermaine Blackwood and Chris Gayle.

Brathwaite's achievement at the age of 21 was as encouraging as the bowling; not much else was.

Otherwise, the overriding thoughts concerned how stronger teams, such as India and South Africa, the next on the schedule, would have punished West Indies' multiple indiscretions.

"The sprinkling of spectators in the stands once more clearly indicated that what Test cricket needs is a shot of adrenaline, not a dose of Valium"

It was impossible to determine the purpose as Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Brathwaite laboured 56 overs to advance the solid overnight base of 264 for 3 by 158 on the second, rain-shortened day. Chanderpaul is, by some distance, the longest-serving, most prolific of contemporary Test batsmen. His tenacious consistency has risen above West Indies' mediocrity of the recent past. He has repeatedly saved seemingly lost causes and featured in rare victories.

This was not a cause to be saved but an advantage to be strengthened. Somehow, he misread the plot; slow as the fledgling Brathwaite was, he outscored his senior partner - 82 to 50 - on the day from the same number of deliveries, 168. Like Chanderpaul's has been, Brathwaite's future is in Test cricket; the sprinkling of spectators in the stands once more clearly indicated that what it needs is a shot of adrenaline, not a dose of Valium.

The quality of fielding is one of the features that accounts for the popularity of the T20 format. The six second-innings chances missed in St Vincent were another negative advertisement for the traditional game; the lobs that Kirk Edwards and Jerome Taylor fumbled to the grass would have embarrassed ten-year olds.

Three of the four off the gutsy century-maker, Bangladesh captain Mushfiqur Rahim, were off the outside edge in the arc from keeper to gully; still the cordon was repeatedly left underpopulated. When the timid left-handed No. 9, Taijul Islam, arrived to be confronted by Gabriel as defeat loomed in the second innings, Ian Bishop couldn't contain himself at the absence of a third slip and a short leg. "This is unforgivable, Denesh Ramdin," he exclaimed on television; his irritation was only soothed as the gap was filled a couple of balls later.

Still, a win is a win. The usually quicker, bouncier pitch in St Lucia promises to offer West Indies more encouragement than at St Vincent for the second Test, starting Saturday; it won't be much good if they can't shake their lethargy.