News Analysis

Sammy 'pleased' despite defeat

The West Indies captain was left to reflect on another Test defeat but one that offered signs of hope

At the end of it all Darren Sammy had to search mentally for the appropriate word to sum up his team's performance after the five-wicket defeat at Lord's? Does he go ahead and call it a minor victory considering West Indies started the final day with a chance? Or should he be modest and admit that they had not progressed much from the finishing point at the end of the home Test series against Australia? Sammy settled for "pleased" with a lot of room for improvement.
"We were quite pleased. We were told there were no fifth-day tickets printed. We took the game to the fifth day," Sammy said. "The team continued to show the never-say-die attitude which we promised to bring out here in England. And we had some good performances from some of the players. We'll take that these positives into the next Test."
The defeat was not unexpected, but what was definitely not expected was West Indies putting up such a determined show and making England work hard for the victory. Barring Shivnarine Chanderpaul, suggested the pre-series coverage, no other West Indies player could stand the stern test in England. Yet, some of them did: Marlon Samuels, Denesh Ramdin and Adrian Barath with the bat and Kemar Roach with ball inspired confidence in team-mates with their contributions.
The downplaying of West Indies' chances before the series was nothing new for Sammy who said his team had become used to such a billing. "For the last ten years they have been saying that about us. We in the dressing room have our own confidence that once we go out and execute, if we bowl in a disciplined fashion, we create problems. We got the last seven wickets [in the first innings] for 130-odd runs. So we could do it. It is about doing it consistently enough. And when you are playing against the No.1 team you have to be at your best all the time."
They produced a strong fightback on the third morning when England lost their last seven wickets for 154. However, they were guilty of letting key moments slip away from them: a couple of examples of letting England off the hook were immediately after removing Alastair Cook on the second morning and then losing three wickets in suicidal fashion on the stroke of tea on the third day.
Another important turning point that could be added to the list of faults was Sammy losing his head in the final hour of play on Sunday when West Indies were steadily building a strong lead with Ramdin looking solid at the other end. Sammy had put some pressure back on England with an attacking innings before becoming Stuart Broad's 10th wicket of the match. He admitted his mistake and suggested the outcome could have been different had he not played impulsively.
"I think I let the team down in that department," he said. "I was striking the ball quite well when the field was spread. If I had batted for the rest of the evening it would definitely have been 250-plus. That could have been the difference."
Luckily, Roach made sure West Indies' spirit were not be dampened before they went to sleep on the penultimate evening by grabbing two key wickets and raising prospects of an unimaginable victory push. On the final morning, Sammy acknowledge, West Indies were excited. Their hopes rested on the four-pronged pace attack and when England were 57 for 4 West Indies' hearts started beating faster.
"I like watching these guys, standing at slips, running in and knowing that anytime an edge could come my way. Today it just felt right," Sammy said. He had pouched Jonathan Trott, the first wicket to fall in the morning, brilliantly to his left at second slip, when Trott was beaten by the movement from Roach.
However, Roach needed support Fidel Edwards did not turn up at Lord's. He started the morning with four wides and remained muted for the rest of the session. Shannon Gabriel, the debutant, once again built his rhythm, bowling purposefully on the off stump and managed to remove the dangerous Kevin Pietersen. But back spasms restricted him to only five overs.
"Our pacers have been doing a good job for us throughout the last year or two," Sammy said. "A few more wickets between Fidel and Roach could have been a different story."
Again, though, the problem for West Indies, despite all their fight, was a lack of runs especially in the first innings. The West Indies players need to start reading situations well and adapting quickly. A major talking point during this Test was whether Chanderpaul should bat higher to strengthen the fragile and inexperienced top order.
At the end of the day's play on Sunday, after he had made 91, Chanderpaul was blunt in his disagreement with such a suggestion. According to him young batsmen do not learn anything batting at No. 5 or 6 and to gain experience they need to play at the top which is something Sammy agreed with.
"Shiv is quite an experienced players so if he says something he has a lot of reasoning for saying it," he said. "He has done an excellent job for us at No. 5 and he continues to do that. I more want our batsmen to take a page out of his book instead of saying where should he bat. Right now what needs to happen is our batsmen have to stand up and bat, and set a platform so when he comes in he could play his game and we all can bat around him."

Nagraj Gollapudi is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo