Eng v WI, Lord’s, day four: Eng 10-2

There will be a fifth day. I did not expect that, in fact I’m not sure anyone expected that. There was apparently more than one journalist who checked out of the hotel this morning. The West Indies fought well, but it has to be said that England bowled poorly. By England’s usual standards it was actually abysmal. Most of the morning was spent trying to contain Chanderpaul and Samuels. Strictly speaking it worked, as the run rate dropped, but it should come as no surprise that Chanderpaul was never tempted into an injudicious shot. As annoying as that was, it did at least seem to be leading up to a proper attack with the second new ball. Except once England got that second new ball, Broad and Anderson kept bowling wide! The length was also a bit too short and they were not making the batsmen play nearly enough. When Broad finally got one full and nipping away it was edged to slip, but the lesson did not seem to sink in. The West Indies fought well (and I do want to make it clear that I think Chanderpaul and Samuels batted very well when not trying to run themselves out), but it was poor bowling by England. For whatever reason, they looked toothless. To be fair, the pitch was flat and the old ball was not really swinging. (And the new one was only a bit.) The lack of swing was probably the biggest problem. Not only was it too cold for the ball to really swing, but England have to use the current (2012) Duke’s balls as they have run out of the 2010 models. For whatever reason (and the people at Duke’s need to find that reason out so they can replicate it) the 2010 balls swung much more than either the 2011 balls or this year’s balls. Last year England did not even use the 2011 balls, preferring the leftover 2010 models. With those gone, England have to work with the less helpful balls. Still, that is no excuse. The ball should not have swung at all in Sri Lanka at all, but they made it work there. At home with some runs with which to work they ought to have done much, much better.

England batted for four overs before stumps. It’s always tricky to do so and I was not terribly surprised to see a wicket go down. It is a situation for the bowlers similar to that of a rugby side playing with a penalty advantage: they can attack unhesitatingly knowing that even if it fails they can just start again the next day. The wicket to fall came off a very good ball and there was very little Strauss could do about it. This did not prevent people from suggesting that it in some way negated his first innings century or that he was not back to form after all. (Both patently ridiculous, of course.) It also meant that there was something akin to panic on Twitter. England were blowing it again, collapsing to an ignominious defeat this time to a weak team at home. The subsequent dismissal of the nightwatchman confirmed this. One wicket was bad, but the loss of James Anderson was vital. One would think that he was key to the run chase and without him England were surely going to lose.

Annoyance with the reaction aside, it really was a good four overs to watch. It’s not nearly often enough one sees the West Indies look like they think they can accomplish something. Roach bowled very well and we got much more lively cricket than when England were bowling negatively and the match was drifting a bit. Anderson’s wicket will not affect the result (except for that if England win the official margin will be different) but it did lead to the very exciting appeal and subsequent review for lbw against Trott. If he had been dismissed it would have put the match more in the balance. As it is, I do not think England have anything about which to worry. The pitch is still very flat, the West Indies do not have a spinner in the side, the forecast tomorrow is quite good and England only need 181 more with five specialist batsmen plus Prior not out. That’s not to say that England can’t lose, of course, but they are still strong favourites.

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