A turning pitch under the tropical sun of Dominica, an idyll at the eastern extremities of the Caribbean, is about as far away from the cold of an English spring as it is possible to get. There may be a little rain about, but that and a paucity of major exports are about the only parallels that may be drawn between this island and the United Kingdom.
Nonetheless, West Indies demonstrated on the first day of the third Test against Australia that they are developing the kinds of bowling resources to do well in the field on English pitches, the hosts' next assignment following soon after the conclusion of this home series. Darren Sammy's team may be far more comfortable in the shirtsleeves afforded by their region, but in strangling Australia's batsmen at Windsor Park they showed the kind of diligence and variety that will serve them well on the chillier side of the Atlantic.
Shane Shillingford took the majority of the plaudits, gaining the sort of bounce that was scarcely on offer in Trinidad but could be extracted in Dominica, from a surface that bore some resemblance to that of Adelaide Oval. David Warner, Michael Clarke, Ricky Ponting and Michael Hussey were all victims of vertical movement as much as lateral, Warner unable to control a cut shot from a ball that reared somewhat, the rest pushing firm-handed at deliveries that jumped. Following a stop-start beginning to his Test career and a spell out of the game to minimise the arm-straightening kink in his bowling action, Shillingford has proven himself a persevering and intelligent spin bowler, keeping things tight whenever he isn't also taking wickets. He is unlikely to play a central role in England, but his rhythm and spin seem equally unlikely to let Sammy down in any dramatic way.
Just as important at Windsor Park were the efforts of the faster bowlers, who worked together to clear a path into the middle order that Shillingford was able to exploit. They are likely to be rather more central to proceedings at Lord's, Trent Bridge and Edgbaston, and even on a surface not given to much seam or swing, were able to demonstrate a neatly balanced array of skills. Speed, swing, seam and economy - all were on display from the moment Kemar Roach took the new ball at 10am local time.
Roach's development as a fast bowler with plenty of skill, speed and confidence has been a source of some excitement both in the Caribbean and abroad. From the moment he discomforted Ricky Ponting in Australia in 2009, Roach has appeared to be a bowler of tremendous promise, and in the return series he has come closer than ever to fulfilling it. Speedier than the rest, while also skidding the ball from his medium height, Roach is a keen student of Malcolm Marshall, as he showed by publicly acknowledging what would have been the late fast man's 54th birthday in Port-of-Spain. He can move the ball in either direction with the new ball or the old, and is allying his skills to an increasingly calculated attitude. Michael Holding is one who believes Roach will be a success in the UK, and he was never less than fast and accurate here.
At the other end, Ravi Rampaul returned to Test cricket after watching the first two Tests from under the drinks umbrella and made the kind of immediate impact his full-bodied seam and swing had, prior to a bout of dengue fever, become increasingly famed for. Sending the ball down at brisk pace, Rampaul maintains an immaculate seam position, maximising his chances of early deviation through the air or off the pitch. While Australia's opener Ed Cowan has not the record nor the poise of Alastair Cook or Andrew Strauss, the delivery Rampaul swung back to claim his wicket was the sort that will challenge the technical resources of both England men. Rampaul will also benefit from the greater share of grass often found on English wickets early in the season, and his fitness and conditioning will only improve with a few more spells at Windsor Park.
The first change to the attack was, as usual, Sammy's introduction. His position as a bowler remains the most contentious in the Caribbean, for he is not overly quick, nor a particularly pronounced seamer or swinger of the ball. But the one thing Sammy does have, in addition to the warmth and unity he has brought with his captaincy, is shrewdness. Taking many of the lessons passed onto him by Corey Collymore, another West Indian bowler who succeeded at little more than medium pace, Sammy gives nothing in the way of loose deliveries, varies his angles on the bowling crease with rare intelligence, and stands up the seam in the hope of a little wobble or cut from the off or the leg. He has winkled out several batsmen in this series with only his wits for protection, and at Windsor Park it was Shane Watson who was becalmed by a tight line then suckered out with a bouncer. It is possible to picture Sammy using the Lord's slope with the precision of any number of old-time English seamers.
This quartet will be aided and abetted by Fidel Edwards, a non-starter in this Test but slingy, slippery and brave, while being ring-led from the boundary by Ottis Gibson, who it cannot be forgotten guided England's fast men beyond base camp towards the heights they have since reached under the ECB's current pace bowling coach David Saker. Gibson is as useful a resource for Sammy and company as any piece of video footage or statistical analysis, for he also has years of experience bowling in England to aid him. Australia's bowlers thought they were well drilled following a romp through India in four home Tests across the summer, but in the Caribbean it is arguable that it is the hosts who have accomplished their plans in the more comprehensive manner, despite the series scoreline.
Of course, West Indies' batting is an area of greater concern for Gibson and Sammy, having been shorn of Chris Gayle and perhaps in need of another recall for the county-employed Brendan Nash. A Duke ball in the hands of Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Chris Tremlett and Tim Bresnan has confounded far better players than Kraigg Brathwaite, Adrian Barath and Kirk Edwards. And their fielding will not be permitted to spurn the chances that went down amid the bowlers' persistence. But if the Caribbean team can find a way of cobbling a few runs in the chill air of England in May, for the first time in some years they have an attack that may be capable of defending them. They had best be wearing plenty of jumpers, though.