The West Indies A team in England are faltering not because of a lack of ability but through the players' failure to read the game properly.
"They're not beating us on skill, they're beating us on thinking," manager Tony Howard said yesterday following three successive defeats - to Warwickshire by an innings and six runs and to Worcestershire and Derbyshire in 50-over matches. "Our players aren't assessing the situation clearly and then playing to that situation. It's a worry as far as I'm concerned. I've suggested that we need to get them in an environment where this doesn't become the norm but where they have to work and learn the game."
He then contrasted the approach of the opponents in the county teams. "We're playing guys here who play cricket for a living. They may be no great shakes as far as skill is concerned but you can see they understand how things are supposed to work. It is the kind of thing we need to get into our players' heads."
Howard, a former Barbados and West Indies offspinner noted, blamed careless stroke selection for the second innings collapse that led to defeat against Warwickshire and for the loss to Derbyshire. Needing to bat through most of the last day to earn a draw with Warwickshire, openers Sewnarine Chattergoon (in spite of a split webbing on one hand) and Lendl Simmons added 56. But then Simmons and the in-form Runako Morton drove catches to mid-on, other batsmen were out to poor shot selection and nine wickets fell for 65 before a last wicket stand of 52 between Daren Powell and Dave Mohammed.
After Derbyshire amassed 306 for six from their 50 overs on Sunday, West Indies were breezing along at nearly seven an over as the second-wicket pair of Devon Smith and Morton posted 100 from 15 overs.
"We were going along really well and only needed to bat sensibly and we would have won the game comfortably," Howard said. "But Smith got a poor lbw decision, five of the others were caught on the boundary at long-on or long-off and Ryan Hinds was needlessly run out, attempting a second run, without facing a ball. We were 30 short but still had 23 balls remaining when we were all out. That's certainly not sensible cricket."
Howard said Morton had done "a yeoman job" as the team's main batsman with scores of 105, 13 not out, 86, 6, 76, 7 and 95, and Powell had been the most impressive bowler with pace and consistency. Powell's batting in the lower order has also been impressive.
This is the most experienced of the several touring West Indies A teams. Nine of the squad of 16 have played Tests, two more in ODIs. The tour continues today with a 50-over match against Glamorgan at Ebbw Vale.