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Despite the weather forcing a draw, the Trinidad Test fit in much that was worth savouring
April 19, 2012
Rain giveth, and rain taketh away. The same precipitation that on day four had pushed the Trinidad Test towards a contest open to both sides had the ill manners to return about the same time on day five, and so consign the match to the dustbin of history occupied by most weather-affected draws. But the 11 overs of the West Indies chase, and the handful that had concluded the Australian second innings before them, a little more than an hour's cricket in all, left a feeling of warmth about the leadership of both the hosts and the visitors.
At the same time the rain reduced the chance that the 20 minutes of bright sunshine lost for murky reasons on the third morning would be pored over with greater intensity, for had it been played the match would not ultimately have been much closer to achieving a result. Nonetheless it will stick uncomfortably in the craw of all present at the ground at the scheduled start time that technological and commercial concerns had been deemed so critical as to stop a Test match in what were the best and sunniest conditions of its five days.
Two days on, Darren Sammy and Michael Clarke tried their very best on the final afternoon to bring about a result, by whatever means they had within their power. A draw was enough to secure the Frank Worrell Trophy for Australia, retained on every occasion since it was so enterprisingly won by Mark Taylor's men in 1995, but Clarke was thinking of victory every moment of the day until the rain closed in. Bad light was the initial cause of the players' departure, and Clarke argued the point quite forcefully with the umpires Ian Gould and Marais Erasmus before reluctantly walking off for the last time.
"Unfortunately there's nothing I could do about the weather," Clarke said later. "Darren and I spoke on the ground right at the end before we came off for bad light and both captains wanted to do everything we could to stay out there but as the umpires said it was just way too dark unfortunately, even though I said I'd bowl spin at both ends. I said at that stage, because I'd had Shane Watson bowl the last over from that end, is it okay if I bring on two spinners but they told me it was even too dark for that.
"There's going to be times throughout the rest of my career that it [being aggressive] might backfire and we might lose every now and then. But I enjoy the brand of cricket that we're playing at the moment. I know the guys are really focused on the team having success and trying to win as many games of cricket as we can. And I think it's bringing the best out of the team, to be honest. We'll continue to do everything we can to try and keep winning."
Sammy, meanwhile, led his team with more intent and aggression in the field than at any stage of the final day in Barbados, harnessing Fidel Edwards, Kemar Roach and Shane Shillingford adeptly while also bowling with typical intelligence himself to fields that were neatly balanced between attack and defence, albeit on a pitch less likely to punish aggressive captaincy or wayward bowling.
Once Australia's prospective target had been shrunk by the quality of the bowling that had confronted them, leaving the West Indies 215 to get in 61 overs, Sammy maintained his notable streak of pro-activity by attacking in his choice of batting order. The obstinate Kraigg Brathwaite was sent down the order to be replaced by Kieran Powell, an opener for the team in ODIs. Powell drove his first ball smartly to the cover fence, but once Ben Hilfenhaus had pinned him lbw, who walked out but Sammy, intent on a thoughtful attack on the bowling. He was making a few of the visitors sweat, too, before the rain arrived.
The enthusiasm engendered in the West Indies team by Sammy, and among the Australians by Clarke, has been admirable. But all parties must take a share of blame for the ridiculous sight on the third day of the two teams walking to the middle, being informed of a power cut at the ground, then traipsing straight back off for 20 minutes of postulating about the implications of simply playing cricket without the assistance of TV. Clarke admitted after the match that he did not know the rule about continuing matches without the DRS in the event of technical difficulties, while the West Indies coach Ottis Gibson said shruggingly that it was simply an example of television's power over sport.
Jeff Crowe, the match referee, and the two umpires, were much more aware of the playing conditions, and as such should not have allowed 20 minutes to tick by without any action on the field. The rain pelting Queen's Park Oval on the final afternoon was a staunch enough reminder that cricket has ample elemental obstacles without others being created by technology and bureaucracy. As ever, the spectators at the ground were thought of last of all, none given a satisfactory explanation why they were teased by the sight of the teams emerging and then retreating.
For all of that, the Trinidad Test fit in much that was worth savouring, from the batting of Shane Watson, Michael Hussey and Shivnarine Chanderpaul, and Australia's rare use of tandem spin to slide through the West Indian first innings, to the unbridled pace and keen intelligence shown by Roach. At 23, he is a bowler of tremendous promise and considerable threat to Australia's transitional batting order, guided soundly by the professional and ECB-approved savvy of Gibson.
Many greats of Caribbean cricket have lamented how subsequent generations have had little time for the wisdom they offered, but in Roach's case there was the tangible inspiration and ingenuity of the late Malcolm Marshall in his heart and mind. His unprompted acknowledgement of what would have been Marshall's 54th birthday on day four was a heartening moment for West Indian cricket, one that suggested the team led by Sammy is learning to take on the best lessons of the years of plenty that preceded them. Alongside the enterprise shown by Clarke and Sammy, Roach's efforts should not be washed away from cricket's collective memory by the showers that ended any chance of a result in this match.
Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets hereFeeds: Daniel Brettig
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