England outshine gritty but inconsistent West Indies
Even before the England tour commenced, a lot was expected from the new-look West Indies side, especially because of their courageous performance against an ominous Australian team at home. ‘So close but yet so far’ was the term linked with them as on numerous occasions they rose from the ashes, fought like intrepid warriors but didn’t have the final impetus that would power them past the finishing line.
|Match||Winner||Castrol Index Win/Draw Margin||Castrol Index Top Performer|
|1st Test||England||43 points||S Chanderpaul (CI=156)|
|2nd Test||England||65 points||M Samuels (CI=197)|
|3rd Test||Drawn||WI led by 22 points||T Best (CI=174)|
The Test tour of England was no different. The West Indian fans again went through some agonizingly frustrating times as the men from the Caribbean lost the series 2-0 in spite of gritty performances throughout. It was their team’s inconsistency that cost them dearly. They started off disappointingly; being on the back foot for the first three days of the first Test at Lord’s but a strong late resurgence saw them hit back hard. At one point of time, they were down in the dumps and the very next moment, they were the favourites to win the match. They seemed to run out of fuel at the end which brought about their downfall in the opening Test. The staggering fight was followed by a poor display of cricket in the second Test at Nottingham as they lost out by 65 points on the Castrol Index as compared to the 43-point defeat in the first. Just when it seemed that they were down and out, they surprised everyone again with a stoic performance in the third Test which saw them outclass the hosts by 22 points on the Index in a rain-hit third Test at Edgbaston.
Amongst all this, one individual who stood out for the visitors was Marlon Samuels. A fine mix of aggression and mature stroke-play made sure that he ended up as the highest run scorer of the tournament with 386 runs. What made his performance more beautiful was his quick adaptability. Not so long ago, he was playing in the shortest format of the game in the Indian T20 League but he made sure that the gears were changed swiftly in the longest format. Though the visitors lost the second Test, it was a pristine 117-run innings that earned him the best Castrol Index of 197 in the match. Coming in at 63/4, he added an astounding 204 runs for the seventh wicket with skipper Darren Sammy to power them to a respectable total of 370 which once seemed totally out of reach. Being involved in three half-century, one century and one double century partnerships in the series spoke volumes about his maturity.
Sadly, he was neither supported by the top order nor by the bowlers. The bowlers seemed ineffective and, apart from Kemar Roach, the entire bowling line-up looked lacklustre as they couldn’t pick up early wickets. The only time they looked ominous was in the second innings of the first Test when they reduced the hosts to 57/4 defending a target of 191. Their top order flopped throughout and it was their lower-middle order that came to the rescue every time they were in a perilous situation. Although the first two days of the Edgbaston Test were washed out, the men from the Caribbean would have been in huge trouble but for the highest score by a No. 11 batsman and a third-best 10th wicket stand in Tests. Tino Best made a spectacular Castrol Index-topping (174 points) comeback to Test cricket with a brilliant 95-run innings, adding 143 runs with Denesh Ramdin to power the hosts to safety from 283/9 to 426. Incredible performance!
For England, it wasn’t necessarily the perfect outing in the Test series. They were pushed to the brink at Lord’s in the first Test but bounced back well with a comprehensive victory in the second. The biggest positive for them was the resurgence of skipper Andrew Strauss who hit his first century in 18 months. He played a huge part in negating the effect of the new ball which was well utilized by the middle and lower order batsmen. Their first choice seam bowlers, James Anderson and Stuart Broad, were pretty much the heart of the bowling line-up which was evident from the fact that following their absence, the English had the toughest two days in the field in the third Test as they allowed the visitors to post 426 on the board. Ian Bell was an unsung hero of the series. He averaged over a hundred with three crucial half-centuries. Tim Bresnan too proved his all-round worth through significant contributions with the ball and lower down the order with the bat.
All in all, England had that extra bit of oomph in their armoury to turn out as deserved winners. West Indies had the talent which is clearly evident from the Castrol Index of performers – the topper in each of the three matches was a West Indian. But they relied a tad too heavily on individual efforts rather than team. They had the required skill and bravery but as it has been the story so far, they lacked the ability to finish on a winning note.