West Indies v Australia, 3rd Test, Roseau, 1st day April 23, 2012

An attack for England?

If West Indies can find enough runs in England in May, for the first time in some years they have an attack that may be capable of defending them

A turning pitch under the tropical sun of Dominica, an idyll at the eastern extremities of the Caribbean, is about as far away from the cold of an English spring as it is possible to get. There may be a little rain about, but that and a paucity of major exports are about the only parallels that may be drawn between this island and the United Kingdom.

Nonetheless, West Indies demonstrated on the first day of the third Test against Australia that they are developing the kinds of bowling resources to do well in the field on English pitches, the hosts' next assignment following soon after the conclusion of this home series. Darren Sammy's team may be far more comfortable in the shirtsleeves afforded by their region, but in strangling Australia's batsmen at Windsor Park they showed the kind of diligence and variety that will serve them well on the chillier side of the Atlantic.

Shane Shillingford took the majority of the plaudits, gaining the sort of bounce that was scarcely on offer in Trinidad but could be extracted in Dominica, from a surface that bore some resemblance to that of Adelaide Oval. David Warner, Michael Clarke, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey were all victims of vertical movement as much as lateral, Warner unable to control a cut shot from a ball that reared somewhat, the rest pushing firm-handed at deliveries that jumped. Following a stop-start beginning to his Test career and a spell out of the game to minimise the arm-straightening kink in his bowling action, Shillingford has proven himself a persevering and intelligent spin bowler, keeping things tight whenever he isn't also taking wickets. He is unlikely to play a central role in England, but his rhythm and spin seem equally unlikely to let Sammy down in any dramatic way.

Just as important at Windsor Park were the efforts of the faster bowlers, who worked together to clear a path into the middle order that Shillingford was able to exploit. They are likely to be rather more central to proceedings at Lord's, Trent Bridge and Edgbaston, and even on a surface not given to much seam or swing, were able to demonstrate a neatly balanced array of skills. Speed, swing, seam and economy - all were on display from the moment Kemar Roach took the new ball at 10am local time.

Roach's development as a fast bowler with plenty of skill, speed and confidence has been a source of some excitement both in the Caribbean and abroad. From the moment he discomforted Ricky Ponting in Australia in 2009, Roach has appeared to be a bowler of tremendous promise, and in the return series he has come closer than ever to fulfilling it. Speedier than the rest, while also skidding the ball from his medium height, Roach is a keen student of Malcolm Marshall, as he showed by publicly acknowledging what would have been the late fast man's 54th birthday in Port-of-Spain. He can move the ball in either direction with the new ball or the old, and is allying his skills to an increasingly calculated attitude. Michael Holding is one who believes Roach will be a success in the UK, and he was never less than fast and accurate here.

At the other end, Ravi Rampaul returned to Test cricket after watching the first two Tests from under the drinks umbrella and made the kind of immediate impact his full-bodied seam and swing had, prior to a bout of dengue fever, become increasingly famed for. Sending the ball down at brisk pace, Rampaul maintains an immaculate seam position, maximising his chances of early deviation through the air or off the pitch. While Australia's opener Ed Cowan has not the record nor the poise of Alastair Cook or Andrew Strauss, the delivery Rampaul swung back to claim his wicket was the sort that will challenge the technical resources of both England men. Rampaul will also benefit from the greater share of grass often found on English wickets early in the season, and his fitness and conditioning will only improve with a few more spells at Windsor Park.

The first change to the attack was, as usual, Sammy's introduction. His position as a bowler remains the most contentious in the Caribbean, for he is not overly quick, nor a particularly pronounced seamer or swinger of the ball. But the one thing Sammy does have, in addition to the warmth and unity he has brought with his captaincy, is shrewdness. Taking many of the lessons passed onto him by Corey Collymore, another West Indian bowler who succeeded at little more than medium pace, Sammy gives nothing in the way of loose deliveries, varies his angles on the bowling crease with rare intelligence, and stands up the seam in the hope of a little wobble or cut from the off or the leg. He has winkled out several batsmen in this series with only his wits for protection, and at Windsor Park it was Shane Watson who was becalmed by a tight line then suckered out with a bouncer. It is possible to picture Sammy using the Lord's slope with the precision of any number of old-time English seamers.

This quartet will be aided and abetted by Fidel Edwards, a non-starter in this Test but slingy, slippery and brave, while being ring-led from the boundary by Ottis Gibson, who it cannot be forgotten guided England's fast men beyond base camp towards the heights they have since reached under the ECB's current pace bowling coach David Saker. Gibson is as useful a resource for Sammy and company as any piece of video footage or statistical analysis, for he also has years of experience bowling in England to aid him. Australia's bowlers thought they were well drilled following a romp through India in four home Tests across the summer, but in the Caribbean it is arguable that it is the hosts who have accomplished their plans in the more comprehensive manner, despite the series scoreline.

Of course, West Indies' batting is an area of greater concern for Gibson and Sammy, having been shorn of Chris Gayle and perhaps in need of another recall for the county-employed Brendan Nash. A Duke ball in the hands of Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan has confounded far better players than Kraigg Brathwaite, Adrian Barath and Kirk Edwards. And their fielding will not be permitted to spurn the chances that went down amid the bowlers' persistence. But if the Caribbean team can find a way of cobbling a few runs in the chill air of England in May, for the first time in some years they have an attack that may be capable of defending them. They had best be wearing plenty of jumpers, though.

Daniel Brettig is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. He tweets here

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Andrew on April 25, 2012, 12:21 GMT

    Don't really care who wins the WI v Eng Test series, I am just hoping the WIndies will continue to show their improvements. I'll be going for the underdog, but above all else what a series minus dramas involving UDRS & a competitive tussle. I would like the WIndies to be able to send the best XI they can. I hate playing the WIndies when the IPL is on, it just detracts from the tour. Atm the WIndies biggest weakness is in the top 3. If Edwards is fit, 1/3 of the problem is solved, if Gayle is WILLING, the WI have 2/3s of the problem solved. On paper a side that reads 1. Gayle, 2. Barath, 3. Edwards, 4. Bravo, 5. Chanderpaul, 6. DJ Bravo, 7. Ramdin, 8. Sammy, 9. Rampaul, 10. Roach, 11. Shillingford/Bishoo, should do okay.

  • Aman on April 24, 2012, 19:23 GMT

    west indies shud brng gayle n sarwan bak if dey wnt 2 win by any chance

  • paul on April 24, 2012, 15:53 GMT

    So because WI at home have caused a few problems for the Ozzies comedy batting line up means they will do well in England , that's quite a stretch. From the looks of it the WI don't know how to dismiss tailenders, every match this series has been the same, they haven't looked like getting 8,9,10 & 11 out quickly. The problem for WI is that there batting is rubbish and that's at home in England as we have seen before it reaches comedy levels, they won't have clue against England seamers and even less of a clue against Swann.

  • Jason on April 24, 2012, 15:47 GMT

    I'm not sure that it will really make a difference who the West Indies have in their top order, runs will be at a premium against this excellent England bowling attack. Since the Summer of 2009, England have played at least one Test series against everyone except Zimbabwe, and the average first innings score conceded is 288. The figures improve for home Tests (276), and, as one would expect, slightly worsen for away Tests (303). Ultimately, for WI to have a chance in this series, they will need to be bowling England out consistently under 200, and I can't see that happening. Same for SA, whose excellent bowling has to be weighed against a top order that is strong on paper, but also alarmingly prone to collapse (I can think of recent skittlings by all of Australia, India, and Sri Lanka, none of whose attacks, with all due respect, are close to England in quality). Ultimately, if SA can consistently score over 300, they will win the series. Might not be as easy as it sounds, though...

  • ian on April 24, 2012, 15:27 GMT

    I do hope that the weather improves for thie arrival of the WIndies! Like several others here, I think that their pace bowlers will challenge England's top order - and the spinners look useful too. Their batting - Chanderpaul apart - is likely to be very vulnerable to the seaming and swinging ball. Sammy seems to be an improving captain and his side appears to be happy. That is no small achievement with a WIndies side. I wish them a tour of genuine progress. The cricketing world is always a better place for a WIndies team that is competitive & united. (Will Sarwan be considered? They'll certainly need him!)

  • ILANKO on April 24, 2012, 14:35 GMT

    The West Indies performance; how they've surprised almost everyone with the way they've played so far, is not dissimilar to how Sri Lanka did in South Africa last year. Though, SL lost 2 of the tests, they weren't given a chance in he$$ of winning any and yet they di win one. West Indies have done better, by threatening to win both games thus far and looking good again. I'm very very impressed with how Sammy goes about things as captain... Yes, without Gayle, Sarwan, Nash et al, their batting may struggle in England... but let's not write them off just yet. As we've seen here, they have plenty of potential with the groups they've got.

  • Samuel on April 24, 2012, 14:10 GMT

    Also, with the struggles the Windies have had dismissing the tail, what are they going to do when it comes to getting rid of Bresnan, Broad and Swann?

  • Saeed on April 24, 2012, 13:26 GMT

    I'm afraid the Windies won't stand a chance unless they bring back the experienced Gayle, Sarwan & maybe Nash. Their current top three will be walking wickets for Jimmy & co. Their top six should be:- 1-Gayle, 2-Kirk, 3-Bravo, 4-Sarwan, 5-Shiv, 6-Nash/Samuels/Deonarine. That #6 slot will be a dicey one & cause the selectors quite a headache ...

  • Rhonda on April 24, 2012, 13:24 GMT

    You know, before this tour started, no one outside of the Windies could see WI winning a game. Precious few Windies fans in the Caribbean thought different. I think the English fans on here would do well to not make the mistake the Aussies made of underestimating us. Our better players should be done with the IPL by the time we get there, and more importantly, we are a team that will not give up. If you look at each match as it was played on this tour, Australia dominated in only one match--the first T20. The lost matches were all let slip by Windies, not won by Australia. I have less worries about the batting and more about letting strong positions slip. This morning's play in Dominica will be key in that regard. If we don't get rid of that tail and bat for a couple days, we will have wasted those 7 wickets. It's time we learn to capitalize on good starts and make them into excellent endings. If we do that, then you can trot out Dukes and Jimmy's all you want, it won't matter.

  • Martin on April 24, 2012, 13:14 GMT

    The way things are here at the moment - the West Indies games will end up getting called off due to snow.... Remember folks - we have the Olympics here this year; The Winter Olympics..... so you West Indies boys - you can all do a remake of Cool Runnings :-)

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