West Indies v England, 1st Test, Jamaica

Cautious Windies feel the belief

Andrew McGlashan in Jamaica

February 8, 2009

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Chris Gayle: deferring an opinion on where that victory ranks © Getty Images
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The day after the great victory before and a chance for West Indies to reflect on a moment that will go down in history. While the England camp is calling for cool heads at a time of panic, West Indies are also urging caution but for a different reason. They have been down in the doldrums for so long that, as fabulous as the victory was, what happens next is even more important.

Chris Gayle said he already puts their innings-and-23-run victory near the top of his career highlights, but the series outcome will determine how high it finally goes. "It's up there. I rank the Test in South Africa [at Port Elizabeth] high, but then got injured after that win. It's definitely up there in the top three, but I'll wait until the end of the series and decide if it can be number one."

John Dyson, the straight-talking Australian coach who is having such an impact with the team, is also cautious of getting carried away. "As I said 12 months ago, people who want someone to come in here and click their fingers like Merlin the Magician to change things overnight, it was never going to happen. These things take time," he said.

"In the last 12 months we've had a number of good performances and each time people have said is this the turning point. I kept saying you have to be patient. We will have days with terrific performances and others where we aren't so good. I think we are becoming more consistent."

However, it is going to be difficult to manage expectations after that performance, capped off by the stunning display of Jerome Taylor, but also including a magnificent match for Gayle, and a display by Sulieman Benn that has been somewhat overshadowed by the dramatic conclusion.

Benn's match-figures of 8 for 108 are the best by a West Indies spinner since 1975 when Lance Gibbs took 9 for 143 against India in Mumbai. There have been precious few spinners of note in the meantime, but with the changing nature of the pitches in the Caribbean they will play an increasingly important role.

Benn came into the match with a modest record of eight wickets from three games and Gayle admitted afterwards that he'd been on trial but hadn't told the player himself.

"He was under a lot of pressure but he didn't know that, I didn't tell him," he said. "I don't point these things out to players because I like to let them go out there with less things to think about. I think you saw how relaxed he was. With his height he can be a very, very good spin bowler.

"He just has to keep working on it, his batting and even his fielding is improving too. He has to capitalise on it. We had talked that if he wants to be a Test bowler he has to take wickets."

Dyson added that he always thought Benn could prove a handful when offered helpful conditions after starting his career on batsmen-friendly surfaces in Guyana, Barbados and Napier. "Our thinking at the time was that this guy is a tall left-arm spinner, he's got some control and some variety and it would be interesting to see him on a wicket that offered him some help. This pitch has given him that and we saw how difficult he can be."

Dyson, though, pointed to the dismissal of Kevin Pietersen as the key moment on the final day. England have relied heavily on Pietersen to set the tone in the top order, a factor that hadn't escaped Dyson's attention. "When I saw that off peg go I was very happy. They do depend on him and I'd like to see him knocked over that way each time, but I don't think that will happen."

West Indies are not going to have too many days like Saturday at Sabina, but the surge in belief that the team has gained should be around for a long time to come. "We go to Antigua with the aim of maintaining the cricket we have played," Dyson said. "England will come back hard, we know that." West Indies, though, know they can match them in every aspect and it's been a long time since anyone has been able to say that.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo

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Andrew McGlashan Assistant Editor Andrew arrived at ESPNcricinfo via Manchester and Cape Town, after finding the assistant editor at a weak moment as he watched England's batting collapse in the Newlands Test. Andrew began his cricket writing as a freelance covering Lancashire during 2004 when they were relegated in the County Championship. In fact, they were top of the table when he began reporting on them but things went dramatically downhill. He likes to let people know that he is a supporter of county cricket, a fact his colleagues will testify to and bemoan in equal quantities.
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