WEST INDIES FIND CONDITIONS AND ACCURATE ENGLAND BOWLING AND CATCHING DAUNTING

Reviewed by Clayton Goodwin

West Indies 121 (Gus Atkinson 7-45): England 189-3 (Zack Crawley 76, Ollie Pope 57)

 West Indies faced the worse of conditions on the first day of the first Test Match at Lord’s and failed to conquer them. After a competent start the fragile inexperienced middle-order batting collapsed to the pace and accuracy of debutant fast bowler Gus Atkinson (7-45), backed up by sharp and spectacular catching. West Indies subsided from 88-3 to 88-7 and seemed even lucky to reach 121. The pattern of the game resembled the comparable Test here in 1957 when Trevor Bailey destroyed a much stronger West Indies batting side. England,    at the close, seem to be on course to emulate victory that year by winning in three days.

At 61-3 by lunch-time the West Indian batsmen flattered to deceive. In overcast conditions with the threat of drizzle, hardly the best for batting, Ben Stokes decided on winning the toss to invite the inexperienced touring batsmen to take first innings. Jimmy Anderson, now playing in the last Test of his twenty-years career, made little impression as debutant Mikyle Louis, the first Kittitian to play in a Test for West Indies, and his captain Kraigg Brathwaite seemed more secure than the pessimists had feared. It was time to change the bowling.

With his second ball fast bowler Gus Atkinson had Brathwaite chop the ball into his own wicket, and shortly afterwards Kirk McKenzie fell to a catch by Zak Crawley in the slip cordon from the same bowler. Louis’ impressive innings was ended by a spectacular catch by Harry Brook at point from Ben Stokes. Nevertheless, Kavem Hodge and Alick Athanaze applied bat to ball with some vigour to take West Indies securely into lunch and for a while afterwards. Yet they, and former captain Jason Holder, provided the last defence before the exceptionally long batting tail.

With the score at 88-3, Atkinson struck again – and to great effect with three wickets in a single over. The inexperienced West Indies batting was outclassed. Athanese was caught by Joe Root in the deep, and from the next ball Brook caught Holder. Da Silva survived the hat-trick before knicking a catch to new wicket-keeper James Smith. Almost immediately Hodge popped up a catch to Ollie Pope at short point off Chris Woakes. The floodlights may have been on for the poor light, but England’s mastery came from Atkinson’s pace and accuracy and superlative catching as 88-3 became 88-7.

For a while Alzarri Joseph laid about him, including four fours in an over from Atkinson, but when he fell to a catch by Woakes off the Surrey bowler at 106-8 namesake Shamar Joseph was caught by Pope also off Atkinson to the second ball he received before the score had advanced. Veteran Anderson spoiled the newcomer’s chance of taking 8 wickets in his first Test innings by having Jay Seales l.b.w to close the innings at 121 with Motie undefeated. West Indies needed their promising fast-bowling quartet to strike quickly, while conditions still favoured bowling, before England’s batsmen ran away with the match.

 The tourists had their chances. There was a near run-out in the first over, and shortly afterwards Ben Duckett was dropped by Louis at point. The batsman was caught by wicketkeeper da Sila from Seales at 30-1. The bowlers created chances, and there were several close calls, but Crawley and Pope battled through util the players came off for bad-light at 88-1. When they returned the batsmen, both of whom attained their half-century, seemed to be more in command. With England just ahead of their opponents’ total Holder had Pope l.b.w at 123-2. Crawley continued to bat impressively but was bowled by Seales at 153-3. Brook and Root played through to the close at 189-3 (a lead of 68 runs)

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