I’m sure I wasn’t the only one to come home on Saturday evening and find England at 26/7 in the test match against the West Indies. Suddenly it was 1994 all over again, I was leaving the house to go shopping and talking with a housemate about the game in Trinidad, where England needed 194 to win.
“England 37/8!” I joked as I headed off to Morrisons. I wasn’t too far off, England reached 40/8 before being finished off for 46 thanks to Curtly Ambrose’s 6-24 and Courtney Walsh’s 3-16. I came back, switched the radio on and was stunned into silence.
So was it on Saturday night. 51 all out. I stared at the television screen open mouthed in disbelief. My other half, who doesn’t like or know much about cricket summed it up when she said “That’s a bit crap really, isn’t it?”. As a balancing viewpoint it was nice to see a great spell of fast bowling from a West Indian, in this case Jerome Taylor. I was brought up with the sight of West Indian fast bowlers annihilating everyone in their path. When West Indies lost a test match it was headline news, even on the BBC. In those days you could bet the next test match would see the opposing top order blown away for ducks or single figure scores.
Oh yes, the West Indies were that good.
As a brief aside I’ve seen some highlights from the West Indies’ tour of England in 1976 on ESPN Classic. Now I know why Michael Holding was nicknamed Whispering Death. What a beautiful approach to the wicket he had. Malcolm Marshall had swing, Joel Garner had unplayable yorkers, Andy Roberts had menace aplenty but Michael Holding was the Rolls Royce of fast bowlers.
It wasn’t just the pace of Jerome Taylor that caused problems. The towering figure of Sulieman Benn and his left arm spin, which turned from day 1, took 8 wickets in the game. Why, then, did Monty Panesar get nothing like similar results? Luck played a small part, for he did beat the bat on a number of occasions. But I’m a swing bowler (of sorts) and occasional off-spinner (I wanted to be the right armed Phil Edmonds) so am no real expert on left arm spin.
Lots has been written and said about the 51 all out, team spirit, lack of coaches, lack of taking personal responsibility by the players and somewhere someone is probably saying the phases of the Moon are affecting England’s performance. The only batsman (i.e. top order player) who can be excused his dismissal is Kevin Pietersen.
Does KP have a technical flaw to the well pitched up outswinger on middle stump? Compare his dismissal in the 2005 Oval test match (where he was bowled by a similar beauty from Glenn McGrath) to his being bowled by Jerome Taylor. If memory serves in the Oval test he was playing straighter there than across the line as he tried to play to leg. Is this a definite technical flaw? If I can notice that then you can bet John Dyson, the West Indies coach and former Aussie batsman has.
Matt Prior was bowled by a delightful off cutter but, as Mike Selvey notes, Prior left a gate the size of the Brandenburg for Taylor to get through. The rest, well, it could have been me out there. I can bat right handed and left handed you know. I believe that James Foster should be given an extended run as England wicketkeeper.
In reality, England don’t have many options because they only took one spare batsman with them in the tour party. If Owais Shah doesn’t get a game now then there’s something seriously wrong with the thinking, wherever that is done, for this England team. Ian Bell keeps getting out after looking a million dollars. Maybe IB is too nice. He really has all the shots. Someone with his talent should be averaging 45+. In New Zealand Harmison and Hoggard were dropped after losing the first test. Harmison has been given another chance and I believe Hoggard should have too. Perhaps Peter Moores had something against Hoggard.
Owais Shah must come in, and probably for Ian Bell. Alastair Cook isn’t looking too strong at the moment so it’s possible he could be rested instead of Bell. England’s bowling was hardworking, honest and wholehearted. Stuart Broad’s 5 wickets were a good reward but I’m sure he’ll be kicking himself over his 2nd innings dismissal. That looked a Jamie special, popping a catch up for short leg. Yes, I’ve done that. Swann might come in for Panesar (improved though Monty is in the field, Swann ofers more in the field and with the bat) and maybe Anderson for Harmison.
With the tour squad they have, that is about as much as England can do.
Yes, it was embarrassing to get rolled over for 51. Hugely so. The deluge of media interviews will carry soundbites like “personal responsibility”, “we’re a united team” et cetera. Chris Gayle has, with John Dyson, started to get West Indies moving in the right direction.
It is time for the England team to front up and show by their actions on the field how much this defeat hurt.
Comments and opinion on the recent test match:
Oh yes, a message to Geoff Miller (National Selector for the England team): my cricket coffin and passport is ready, just call me and I can be at Heathrow in about an hour.