The Surfer

England punish West Indies' indifference

If it was a good day for England, who have the Wisden Trophy in their grasp, it was a good one, too, for Graham Gooch, who was watching from the press box

George Binoy
George Binoy
If it was a good day for England, who have the Wisden Trophy in their grasp, it was a good one, too, for Graham Gooch, who was watching from the press box. The men responsible for England's commanding position, Ravi Bopara and Alastair Cook, are Gooch acolytes, part products of his expertise and devotion to producing top-class batsmen for Essex and England, writes Mike Atherton in the Times.
Whatever the future holds for Test cricket two men will unquestionably be part of it. They are both from Essex, they are separated by only three months in age, they first began playing cricket with each other when they were 12 and yesterday Alastair Cook and Ravi Bopara shared a partnership of 213 for England, writes Stephen Brenkley in the Independent.
It would have been neat if the Riverside produced something gobsmackingly wonderful that had hordes heading north-east for the weekend. Instead there was another century from Alastair Cook, a worthy innings from an exceptional young man but not the sort of fare that causes mass movements of population, writes Vic Marks in the Guardian.
The Riverside Ground is not always the desolate wind tunnel we saw on Thursday. The last time the West Indies passed through Chester-le-Street, just two summers ago, the first-day attendance reached five figures, writes Simon Briggs in the Telegraph.
What has changed? Durham point to the late confirmation of the West Indies as the opponents for this match, together with the early-season scheduling. Alastair Cook took a more direct line. “It’s pretty cold out there,” he said. An alternative explanation might be that the recession has made people much pickier about which matches they are prepared to attend. And cricket is not the only sport to suffer from this syndrome. If tickets for this year’s Calcutta Cup match were slow to sell, it is because Scotland’s rugby team are a declining force. And the same goes for the West Indies, only more so.
England's seven-Test summer looks increasingly redundant because the public, not the players, have finally given up the ghost. For years the ECB has sought to move county cricket closer to Test cricket and yesterday it achieved it. Yesterday, Test cricket felt like the County Championship, writes David Hopps in the Guardian.
If the longer form of the sport is to thrive, it may need a shake-up. Stephen Brenkley has a plan in the Independent.
1. Avoid familiarity
Do not stage games between the same two teams in such rapid succession. England played the West Indies in a home series two years ago, again last winter and now again at home. Familiarity can breed contempt which is why the Ashes, held once every four years in both England and Australia, remains special.
2. Kick out the weaklings
The game has been diminished by chronically weak teams like Zimbabwe (thankfully now no longer a Test nation) and Bangladesh. Test cricket should continue to seek new teams and horizons but they must be ready to compete because in modern professional sport there is no place for the outclassed.

George Binoy is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo