England 341/5 stumps
I don’t know about you but I’m quite relieved! At 34-3 after 16 overs, yesterday had ‘disaster’ written all over it. And then the cavalry came to the rescue – not that I can picture Ian Bell brandishing a sword on horseback.
It was a curious decision by Dinesh Ramdin to bowl first. The pitch was good. But England’s top order seemed determined to prove him right. I won’t be too hard on Trott, as anyone can nick their third ball to slip, but Cook and Ballance looked all at sea.
Apart from one lovely cover drive Cook’s looked terrible. His trigger movement seemed worryingly out of synch, which is always a troubling sign for our skipper. He was eventually bowled through the gate after an exploratory push forward. It wasn’t pretty.
Ballance is also becoming a worry now. We need to give him time, as he played so well last summer, but he looked anything but a test number three yesterday. He shuffled around the crease like a crustacean and looked utterly bereft of confidence. Never underestimate our management’s ability to take a promising young player backwards. Sigh.
It’s easy to forget that Peter Moores was initially criticised for selecting Ballance as a number three (he’s always been a four or five for Yorkshire). The doubters said his technique wasn’t suited to the top order. Moores was proved right last summer, but part of me wonders if this had more to do with the toothlessness of India’s attack rather than Ballance’s abilities.
This is definitely something to keep an eye on. I would hate England to simply discard Ballance before he’s had the opportunity to bat in his more natural position. At some point, the best batsman in the side has to take responsibility and bat three. Then again, Ballance still has plenty of time to put things right.
Now we move on to the stars of the show: Bell, Root and Stokes. Didn’t they play well! Bell played himself in (as is his way) before delivering some of his trademark shots. The pitch didn’t really enable him to drive fluently, but there were plenty of backcuts and pulls. Bell played just the kind of responsible knock you need from your senior batsman. Long may it continue.
Root also played a mature innings – solid in defence, yet always eager to capitalise on poor deliveries. A lot of Australians are skeptical about Root’s abilities, but I have a sneaking suspicion he could turn into England’s Steve Smith. Root looked a little lost at times during the Ashes whitewash – with many arguing he’d been exposed – but he’s improving as a player and could surprise the Aussies later this year. That’s the beauty of young players … they should improve (in theory at least).
It was also encouraging to see Ben Stokes score fluently. There’s something about Stokes that we all love. He’s aggressive, has attitude and is extremely good to watch. The way he dismissed some lacklustre bowling had real swagger. England’s lower middle-order will be fun to watch when Moeen Ali returns.
Of course, we can’t read too much into Stokes performance as the Windies’ bowling was dreadful in the evening session – especially when Ramdin elected to take the second new ball. It’s a topical issue here at TFT, but England’s batsmen will never get a better chance to make a cheap test century tomorrow.
I feel a little sorry for the Windies. I’ve always quite liked Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach, but they had no support whatsoever. Benn always seems to disappoint me, and Holder looked nothing special.
I never thought I’d actually miss seeing England batsmen ducking and weaving against genuine quicks, but test matches in the Caribbean seem soulless without a little chin music. Of course, the new stadiums don’t really help the atmosphere.
Feel free to add your comments on day two’s action below.