Tour Match, Basseterre, April 06 - 07, 2015, England tour of West Indies

Match drawn


England dominate draw with weak hosts

England need to do whatever they can to go into the first Test on Monday as well prepared as possible and could take encouragement from their performance against a weak St Kitts

St Kitts Invitational XI 59 (Stokes 3-10, Broad 2-16) and 76 for 7 (Tredwell 3-35) drew with England XI 379 for 6 dec (Cook 101, Trott 72, Root 64, Bell 59)
It is most unlikely that, in years to come, a commemorative DVD of this match will be produced. It is unlikely those present will gather together for reunions, print "I was there" t-shirts and have "St Kitts 2015" tattooed upon their bodies. It was, in entertainment terms, an absolute shocker.
And the next two-day 'match', starting on Wednesday, will offer no better. With England having little time to acclimatise to the conditions or the return to red-ball cricket, the game will see England bowl 90 overs on day one - even if, on the basis of the first day, St Kitts are 180 for 30 by stumps - and will then bat for 90 overs on day two. There is no pretence that this is a game; it is practice.
While that may be a disappointment to those hardy cricket lovers who have ventured all the way from England - and those from these parts who hoped to see their team of local lads take on international opposition - it is also understandable.
England have not played Test cricket since August. Some of these players have had no first-class cricket since the end of the English season and, after a winter dedicated to the 50-over format - an investment that proved as beneficial as asking Allen Stanford to look after your money - have been given only four days of low-standard cricket to prepare for a Test series. They need to do whatever they can to go into the first Test on Monday as well prepared as possible. The result of this game, in which England almost pulled-off an unlikely win, makes no difference at all.
So, on the second day, Ian Bell and Joe Root were both given the time to score unhurried half-centuries, Ben Stokes hit an increasingly impressive 41 and Alastair Cook scored the five more he required from his overnight score to register his first century in any form of the game since April. He and, later, Bell both retired to allow other batsmen an opportunity.
Against such opposition - and the St Kitts bowling is substantially better than their batting, which might be the weakest an England side has ever encountered - and in such matches, personal landmarks mean nothing. But if Cook and Bell and Jonathan Trott now feel confident and comfortable, England's time here will not have been wasted.
Still, the WICB might want to reflect on the standard of opposition offered to England here. It really does not paint Caribbean cricket in a good light and if the destinations are going to continue to benefit from the travelling support England bring - the Barmy Army alone have 70 supporters in St Kitts - they might want to offer a little more in return.
Root was not hugely convincing. Brilliant off the back foot - which basically accounts for every shot he plays - he is now so reluctant to come forward, that he is rendered almost entirely scoreless on the front foot between mid-off and point. On slow wickets with little swing, that method will work fine. But against the likes of Ryan Harris when the ball swings? It is a concern. Here he was badly missed at slip on 19 when the deserving Quinton Boatswain - an admirable seamer and whole-hearted fielder - found his outside edge after a footless prod.
Gary Ballance also failed to cash in. Somewhat tentative outside off stump against the seamers, he fell when turning the offspinner Elvin Berridge straight into the hands of short leg. It was an unfortunate dismissal, perhaps, but also the innings of a man who requires a little longer at the crease.
With England declaring after Stokes drove one down the throat of long-off, England drafted Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett into their side to open the bowling. While Plunkett was the quicker, Wood was marginally the more accurate and dismissed Shane Jeffers with a yorker. Plunkett was later somewhat fortunate to gain a lbw decision against Sherwin Peters - the ball was one of the few Peters hit in a torturous 47-delivery innings.
Perhaps the more relevant contest was between the two potential England spinners. James Tredwell, gaining a surprising amount of turn, probably edged in front in the race for the Test place, claiming three wickets in quick succession including Jeremiah Louis, bowled by one that turned through a gate as large as the Brandenburg.
Adil Rashid also claimed a wicket. But that came when Leon Clarke attempted to slog a legbreak for six over midwicket and edged to cover - an odd shot with eight overs to go and a game to save. Rashid continued to deliver the four ball an over that threatens his future as an international bowler.
The nadir of the St Kitts performance - and it was hotly contested - probably came when Darren Hobson, who had been struck by the only ball he faced, attempted a bizarre quick single only to be run out. St Kitts trailed by 300 at the time and there were about 20 overs left of the match. The next man in, Jaison Peters, took so long to emerge from the pavilion that he must have been in danger of being timed out and was obliged to fasten his pads on the pitch.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

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