Roach honours Marshall by harrying Australia
Within the space of eight months in 1988 and 1989, Malcolm Marshall turned in two of the most outstanding displays of fast bowling ever delivered on spinner's pitches: 7 for 22 from 15.4 overs against England at Old Trafford, and 5 for 29 from 31 overs against Australia at the SCG. In each match, a spinner took the new ball for the opposition, and in Sydney Marshall had to overcome the scepticism of his captain Viv Richards, who gave him only seven of the first 94 overs.
In Port-of-Spain in 2012, Kemar Roach has done his best to emulate Marshall, harrying Australia's second innings in the second Test at Queen's Park Oval. Roach has an awful long way to go before he gets anywhere near Marshall's level of mastery, but he has studied his forebear's ways, and could not hide his sense of warmth at performing well on a slow, spinning surface on what would have been Marshall's 54th birthday.
"I've watched a lot of clips of him and he was just such a great great, great bowler, he was the best bowler in the world at the time [he was playing]," Roach said of Marshall after rain curtailed the fourth day of the second Test. "I'm just glad, I can't really explain it, it's a good feeling to know that I got some wickets on his birthday today and it makes me feel warm as a West Indian to know I can go out here and perform for the West Indies like he did."
Like Roach, Marshall was not a tall man, but used his lower release point to advantage by skidding the ball down towards the batsmen while moving it both ways. Roach made a fair attempt at imitating these methods against the Australians, swerving the ball a little each way in the air, while also using his fingers and the seam to cut it off the pitch.
It was one such cutter that deceived Ed Cowan and found him lbw from around the wicket, while David Warner was confounded by a delivery that zipped away from him and touched the outside edge on the way to the slips cordon. The most spectacular moment of all, though, was reserved for Shane Watson, who left enough of a gap between bat and pad to allow a fast, seaming delivery to slide through low and send the off stump cartwheeling.
"It was a good sight. I really enjoyed that one obviously. Shane Watson's also a great batsman as well, I rate him a lot and to get him, on that wicket, is a good achievement," Roach said. "The lower the wicket is you obviously want to challenge the stumps a bit more. Keep your pace up and be as accurate as possible. That's what got my wickets today and I'm proud of myself for that."
Roach's career has had some peaks and troughs already in its brief journey, and he reflected on the fact that in 2011 he had found himself out of the West Indies Test XI while his senior fast bowling partner Fidel Edwards enjoyed a stronger year. However Roach has a certain knack of bowling well against Australia, having made his name down under in 2009. He is building his reputation again in 2012, and now has 13 wickets at 19.15 for the series, by a distance the most on either side.
"I don't think I'm doing anything better [than Edwards]," Roach said. "I still think Fidel's a great bowler, he's just a bit unlucky this game, and I know that if he plays the next Test match he will obviously perform. I know he's a guy who likes to be in the middle of everything. He's okay right now."
Roach's success against Cowan and Warner has challenged the capabilities of Australia's nascent opening combination, and he said he had schemed effectively with the coach Ottis Gibson to Test Warner in particular outside off stump.
"I will say that's one of our plans, to challenge the batsmen's techniques, and obviously bowl according to how the wicket is playing," Roach said. "There was always a plan to get him out early playing forward, and that has happened in every game.
"[Gibson] really is a good bowling coach, I enjoy working with him a lot. I've been working hard with him and I want to thank him for the success I've been getting so far and I'm going to keep working with him in the rest of my career hopefully."
With a third wicket for the innings, Roach took his match tally to eight, and he is now within two of not only honouring the departed Marshall but becoming the first West Indies bowler to claim 10 for the match against Australia since Curtly Ambrose did it in the Adelaide Test match won by a solitary run in 1993. At 23, Roach is still learning his trade, but Marshall would have approved of how he went about his work this day.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here