Scott Oliver at Trent Bridge
It was the best of days, it was the worst of days for the Windies and their band of post-(apo)Calypso triers. In the field, they showed guts aplenty (not a pun on the plump and meaty Ravi-oli) as they whittled steadily through the England innings, in the process bringing about what was either a statistical curio (the verification of which would require skills I don’t have) or simply a banal observation: the sequence of wickets was such that all five bowlers took it in turns to snare their victims. Thus, Simpsons character lookalike Rampaul added KP to his overnight scalps, before Roach took out the middle-order B-unit. Sammy then nipped in for a face-saving two-fer: a lazy drag-on from ‘Priory’ and a tired Strauss losing patience with a negative line very wide of off stump to a 7-2 field and nicking off. Shillingford then picked up Broad via a top-edged sweep. Finally, the man Boycott had wearily dismissed on last night’s C5 highlights with “let’s be honest, Samuels can’t bowl” (prompting a snort from Vaughan) burgled the last two. Good stuff…
2. …OR FLIGHT
With a deficit of only 58 and 34 overs left in the day’s play, Windies came out to bat after tea with a good opportunity to give England an edgy night’s sleep. Once again, however, the innings lost its top quicker than a sunbathing exhibitionist with a new boob job. And what a boob job it was: 61 for 6. Angry Anderson nipped out the openers, Shiv had a ‘oh, sod it’ moment, before Bravo, Ramdin and a flu’d up vice-captain Kirk were plumb to Bresnan, ruling out a final day’s cricket and some possible revenue for Notts.
3. NORFOLK THREE-FIELD SYSTEM
Back in the eighteenth century, food production (and world history) was revolutionised by the farmers of East Anglia. They worked out that selecting three fields to be cultivated cyclically – two fertile and abundant with energy, a third fallow, recuperating its fecundity – would substantially increase flows of nutrients and thus enable larger populations to be sustained. In theory, the rotation of pace bowlers should work along similar lines, only Darren Sammy, it seems, is permanently barren soil, leaving the other two, um, fields, Roach and Rampaul, to produce the goods.
It may be an agricultural epicentre, but in cricketing terms Norfolk is only a Minor County, of course – which is about the standard of Sammy’s bowling. The ancient cat-skinners of Phoenicia might have eschewed a one-size-fits-all outlook, but there is only a place for 75mph seamers in Test cricket if you’re not being milked at 4 runs per over. All this is a familiar enough, but the problem is simply not going away. Windies need to address how they turn their skipper into a fifth bowler (other than just bowling two feet wide of off stump) without significantly weakening the batting. It is their cricket’s most significant short-term issue.
4. JOHNNY B, GOOD?
Around lunchtime, there was something of media spat between Spin’s former editor, George Dobell, and, two floors up, Sky Sports’ resident county cricket expert Ian Botham, a man known for opinions that are as forthright as they are often ill-informed. Remarking upon Bairstow’s discomfort against some well-directed quick stuff from Kemar (‘Samosa’), Botham suggested that “he won’t have faced too much 90mph bowling in County Cricket”. Dobell – who is rumoured to have seen a few days’ county cricket recently – refuted this, which ruffled Sir Beefy’s feathers and he eventually challenged George, on air rather than Twitter, to “name three”. The Twittersphere obliged with double figures, by which time Sky seemed less keen to expose their semi-royalty to the exposure of his opinions as baseless.
While the storm blew quickly enough across its teacup, the fact remains that Bairstow batted extremely gingerly against Roach. The first ball was an attempted bouncer that skidded flat, crunching into his splice with him half-seeking evasive action. The next ball was again short, but with much more intent, much more venom, and it would have hit the Adam’s apple had he not got gloves in the way, the ball looping toward and short of a scrambling gully.
Stiff-armed in India against spin on slow pitches and now looking wooden and flat-footed against good quick bowling on a firm but not lightening quick surface here, there are serious question marks over the Yorkshireman. Another ginger, Eion Morgan, might not be totally unhappy about that.
Ian Bell gives off the air of a man for whom it will be a blessed relief when he reaches the end of his career and his statistical legacy is finally known; intense, ticking, he’s a walking advertisement for the interventions of sports psychology. Had he been around at the time of the father of psychoanalysis, doubtless Freud would have prescribed him cocaine, as he did all his patients (hence the talking cure), which would no doubt have sent Bell’s already copious nervous energy spiralling.
Bell is a delightful batsman to watch and a substantial innings here would have compensated for KP’s early exit. Not to be. Short of another record-breaking lower-order stand, such a knock will have to wait until Edgbaston, his home ground, where rumour is afoot that Warwickshire are soon to name the newly developed Pavilion End after him: “Chris Woakes will be opening the bowling from the…”
6. BATTING DEEP
London has the Shard and the Gherkin; Nottingham, the ‘Batman’ – in the form of Trent Bridge’s pointy-eared office building-cum-big screen – which ought to have been auspicious for batters here. With good weather and a flat pitch to look forward to, KP had doubtless spent the previous evening thinking about a big one, and perhaps three figures as well, but after he, Bell, Bairstow and Prior missed a golden opportunity to squirrel away some Test runs before the arrival of Steyn, Vern and the Snorkel, it was left to Broad and Bresnan to ensure a lead of 58. Bressie hustled in late in the day to take three cheap wickets and once again confound critics suggesting his place might be in jeopardy…