West Indies v Australia, 2nd Test, Antigua, 1st day May 31, 2008

Windies lack consistency

Tony Cozier on West Indies' fielding lapses during the first day of the second Test against Australia
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Runako Morton lets one through on a below-par effort in the field for West Indies © Getty Images
 
It was a day in which West Indies needed to be as sharp and flawless in the field. While their bowlers plugged away with much of their newly-discovered discipline, they lacked the support they enjoyed during the first Test, which was even more essential here to counteract the disadvantage of the conditions.

The usually sure-handed Runako Morton put down a chance at point when the dogged Simon Katich square-cut Fidel Edwards straight to him, still ten runs short of his eventual century. He would have backed himself to take that catch ten times out of ten.

Denesh Ramdin couldn't gather a leaping leg-side catch when Michael Hussey was on 4. The prolific left-hander only added another six but it was a rare mistake by the 'keeper, on which epitomised the decline in West Indies' fielding standards.

Misses, fumbles and deflections on the ground probably cost as many as 20 runs and often eased the pressure of a sequence of scoreless deliveries. Ramnaresh Sarwan, once again standing in for the injured Chris Gayle, and Jerome Taylor, seemingly conscious of the back strain that kept him out of the first Test, were the main culprits.

At Sabina Park, there were only two no-balls and not a single wide in Australia's first innings, during which West Indies bowled 126.5 overs. Here, in 82 overs, there were seven no-balls and a wide from Dwayne Bravo that passed a few feet away from Ramdin on its way to the boundary.

It emphasised the point about consistency made by Australia's coach, Tim Nielsen, prior to the match, and, no doubt, by his West Indies counterpart, and fellow Australian, John Dyson. The difference between the teams at present, Nielsen noted, is the ability to execute their skills and reproduce them "over and over again".

The position is not dissimilar to that of the first Test. On a friendlier batting pitch, West Indies will find it harder here to restrict Australia to under 500, a situation which will place heavy demands on their batting. But, in the continuing absence of Gayle, there is yet another opening combination to start things off against one of the most potent new ball attacks in the game.

If the strange make-up of the final eleven was predicated on the announcement of the overall squad, the inclusion of Xavier Marshall was a choice as bewildering as any ever made by our often bewildering selection panels.

When he was head coach, Bennett King was so seduced by Marshall's potential that he pitchforked him into the VB Series in Australia and the Test series in Sri Lanka in 2005. He was 18 and clearly not ready.

Since then, his appearances for Jamaica have been spasmodic and unconvincing. He was not even in the playing XI for their Carib Beer Challenge final against Trinidad and Tobago last month. His first-class average is 25, and he is yet to score a hundred.

Still only 22, Marshall may yet become a worthy Test opener. At present, he is no more ready to take the leap to the highest level than he was four years ago.