Sun | Feb 5, 2023

Oh no, not again West Indies

Published:Sunday | April 15, 2012 | 12:00 AM


The second Test between the West Indies and Australia begins at Queen's Park Oval in Trinidad and Tobago today, and based on the finish to the first Test, which ended at Kensington Oval in Barbados a few days ago, it should be another exciting and heart-stopping affair.

In a match in which the action was fitting for the headquarters of cricket in the West Indies, the home team scored 449 for nine declared, Australia replied with 406 for nine declared, West Indies scored 148 in their second innings and Australia, after apparently sitting pretty at 126 for two, scored 197 for seven to win by three wickets in fading light on the last day of the match.

It was a match marked by Shivnarine Chanderpaul's 25th Test match century - a gritty innings of 103 not out; a lovely touch of a first innings declaration by the West Indies; a fine spell of medium-paced bowling by captain Darren Sammy; some tight leg-spin bowling by Devendra Bishoo in Australia's first innings; and a memorable tail-end batting performance by the Australians, highlighted by the batting of Ryan Harris - the batting performance which, among other things, turned the match Australia's way.

There was also a tit-for-tat declaration by Michael Clarke, a declaration which, apart from saying "If you can do it so can I", hinted that despite the little time left they were going for victory; a brilliant, crippling burst by fast bowler Ben Hilfenhaus which left the West Indies reeling at four runs for three wickets in their second innings; and in spite of four wickets by Narsingh Deonarine, some splendid bowling by fast bowler Kemar Roach in Australia's second innings.

Before the start of the match, Clarke had said that one hour could change things in the fortunes of the match, and indeed it did.

Clarke's decision to declare Australia's first innings closed on the fourth afternoon 43 runs behind the West Indies first innings total and to put the pressure on the West Indies, and the bowling of Hilfenhaus at the start of the West Indies second innings, were what combined to devour the West Indies, to put the Australian cat among the West Indian pigeons.

disappointed West Indians

As exciting as the first Test match was, however, and as close as the ending appeared to have been, every West Indian, or almost every West Indian, must have been disappointed, not so much in losing the Test match, but in the manner in which they lost it.

After scoring so many runs, after batting in the first innings for almost the first two days of the Test match, and after apparently batting themselves to safety in the Test match, the West Indies slipped to defeat after controlling the match for three-and-a-half days.

One of my unhappiest memories in cricket dates back to October 18, 1960 - the fifth and last day of a regional match between Jamaica and Barbados at Bourda in Guyana, then British Guiana.

Jamaica, batting first, scored 466 with Teddy Griffith and Easton McMorris, the opening batsmen, scoring 143 and 175, respectively. Barbados, with opening batsmen Conrad Hunte hitting 263 and Cammie Smith 127, scored 664, and Jamaica fell for 95 in their second innings, to leave Barbados - without Garry Sobers, without Wes Hall - victors by an innings and 103 runs.

For years I was tormented by that defeat, and especially so because I was so happy with the proceedings during the first day's play.

Many West Indian fans will say "well played" to the West Indies, but others will continue to be disappointed, not because the West Indies lost but because of how and why the West Indies lost.

It was disappointing to see the West Indies team trying to save a Test match by obvious time wasting with their bowlers, especially their spin bowlers, pulling up in their run-ups.

schoolboy tactics

It was reminiscent of schoolboy tactics.

The truth about the performance in the first Test, however, is that West Indies domestic cricket is too weak for the representative team to put out a strong team.

The West Indies need a strong domestic competition and good pitches in order for their players to develop good habits.

In the present environment the West Indies players will fight sometimes and put up a good show, but that cannot and will not last long. Day after day the weaknesses will come to the fore.

The batsmen will eventually be undone by good bowling and good bowlers, as Adrian Barath was by Hilfenhaus in the second innings; they will eventually play lose and careless strokes, as Kraigg Brathwaite did in the second innings; and they will eventually be worked out, as Kirk Edwards was by Hilfenhaus in the second innings.

And their bowlers, although they bowl well sometimes and take two or three wickets at a time, will not know how to bowl consistently well, or take wickets in bunches because of the lack of quality batting they are accustomed to be up against on a regularly basis.

Although the West Indies never looked like winning the Test match, even though Australia, especially after the heroics of their tail-enders and the opening burst of Hilfenhaus in the second innings always looked like winning it, it was a good Test match. It went to the wire and although Australia should win this one also, hopefully, the contest starting today at Queen's Park Oval will be just as good as that at Kensington Oval.

And it should be if captain Darren Sammy's words are anything to go by, if his players listen to him.

"We dominated a top side with some good players and the way I heard them celebrate on the balcony means a lot to me. We'll take that to heart and look to coming back strong in Trinidad."