West Indies v Australia, 1st Test, Jamaica, 2nd day May 24, 2008

Coming to fruition

Tony Cozier on the recent performances of West Indies' young fast bowlers, Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor

Fidel Edwards bowls on his way to figures of 5 for 104 © Getty Images
It is five years now since the selectors identified Fidel Edwards and Jerome Taylor as two young men with the potential to develop into a combination in the grand tradition of West Indies fast bowling.

It was clearly premature, even blasphemous, to whisper the names of Hall and Griffith, Roberts and Holding, Ambrose and Walsh in the same breath but West Indies cricket was desperate for a fillip and these two looked the business. But there are undeniable signs that their promise is coming to fruition.

It has been increasingly evident over the past couple of series and, once more, in Edwards' outstanding performance against Australia's high class batting over the first one-and-a-half days at Sabina Park.

As it has been since they first appeared together, the problem was that Taylor had to watch it from the team room, caring for a stiff back. The pertinent fact is that they have only ever completed five Tests together. When they can find more consistent fitness, they can become the pair West Indies crave.

Taylor was a day short of his 19th birthday and in his first season of regional first-class cricket when he was chosen for his debut Test, against Sri Lanka in St Lucia. Although slim and lacking the physical dimensions generally associated with those who ply the trade, his silky approach, high action and ability to hustle batsmen immediately caught the attention.

Edwards had even fewer statistical credentials to recommend him when he followed in the next Test at Sabina Park a few days later. He was just 21 and he made a solitary appearance for Barbados a year earlier. He was no bigger than Taylor and delivered with an exaggerated round-arm action but he had pace and swung the ball.

One session in the nets prior to the Australian Test earlier in the season was enough to convince Brian Lara that he was one for the future. It was the captain's influence that reportedly brought him into the team.

The two had contrasting introductions. Taylor couldn't take a wicket in his first Test. Edwards had five in his first innings. All the same, the promise has always been clear. With experience, it has finally begun to come to fruition.

The two figured prominently in the two significant victories in the previous five Tests, influencing the dismissal of strong South African and Sri Lankan batting line-ups for under 300 in both innings.

Throughout the long Australian innings here, Edwards has again demonstrated the control, the aggression, the swerve and the common sense that earned him five wickets, and, with a little luck, would have earned him more. No Australian batsman, not even the peerless captain Ricky Ponting on the first day, dominated him. He was a handful for most.

It was his sixth fifth-wicket haul return in his 31 Tests. Brett Lee, Australia's fiery spearhead, has had eight in 65 Tests. It is a revealing comparison