West Indies v England, 4th Test, Barbados, 1st day February 26, 2009

Powell's trials and tribulations

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Alastair Cook hit a six. No, really © AFP
 

In and out…again
A few minutes before the toss, confirmation came through of a potentially significant team selection by England. Steve Harmison had been dropped in favour of Ryan Sidebottom on the surface expected to help Harmison the most. Really, though, he should have seen it coming. His winter has been a series of recalls and omissions; picked in Chennai, dropped in Mohali, picked in Kingston, dropped in Antigua (the first one), picked in Antigua (the second one) and now dropped in Barbados. He should keep his bowling boots handy for Trinidad, although this time his omission might be more permanent.

Powell's problems
Daren Powell has been the focal point for many of West Indies' discussions leading into this Test. For all his fine efforts in helping save the game at the ARG he is really struggling with his bowling. He has been offered a show of faith from John Dyson, but his performance during the first session was woeful. He couldn't land two balls in the same place and was continually cut away by Andrew Strauss. He was withdrawn after conceding more than half the team's runs in his five-over spell, though he later produced an absolute corker to clean up Strauss.

The real deal
Alastair Cook doesn't do sixes, so there was a collective intake of breath as he went down on one knee and swept Sulieman Benn over deep midwicket. It was just his second maximum in international cricket and the first that could be termed authentic. His previous six was a fortuitous top-edged hook that flew over the wicketkeeper's head on last year's tour of New Zealand. This latest effort came right out of the middle and landed close to the beach (the makeshift one on the ground, that is. The proper beach would have been a hit too far even for Viv Richards).

All off the bat
The ball regularly found the middle of the England openers' bats during the first-wicket stand. In fact, it barely hit anything else. The 108 runs scored in the morning session were shared between Strauss and Cook without that normally useful contribution from Extras. He didn't get his first run until Denesh Ramdin let through a bye against Benn in the 41st over.

Cook's boiling point
Normally the countdown for a batsman's milestone begins in the 40s or 90s, but for Cook everyone was watching as he pushed himself through the 60s. Since his last Test century, against Sri Lanka at Galle in December 2007, he had reached fifty 10 times but not passed 76. With a nudge through square leg he broke the barrier and surely, now, he would crack three figures again. The tension grew; he spooned a pull just out of Benn's reach and then he edged between keeper and slip. On 94, he failed to get hold of a pull and found square leg. Cook could barely believe it.

Powell's pearler
The earlier entry focused on Powell's lack of form. Well, give the guy credit, he didn't give up. Thrown the ball after tea by Chris Gayle he produced a stunning yorker, virtually out of nowhere, to uproot Strauss who was batting serenely on 142. His spell ended with figures of 7-3-14-1, one of his best stints of the series and his captain will have been mighty grateful for it.

Quick, quick, slow…and quick again
The first session brought 108 runs, the second 113 but there were just 39 in the first 23 overs of the third. England came to a juddering halt after the opening strand was finally cracked. Owais Shah laboured 47 balls for his 7 while it took Kevin Pietersen and Paul Collingwood 29 deliveries to open their partnership. However, a late surge against some seriously quick stuff from Fidel Edwards livened up the closing overs.

Andrew McGlashan is a staff writer at Cricinfo