Today could have been, and maybe should have been, a terribly dull day. With the first three days and the forecast for tomorrow making a result almost impossible, there was almost nothing for which to play. Instead, and fortunately, we got plenty about which to talk.
England started the day much as they finished the previous one. All that time they looked keenly aware that a result was not on the cards and not at all keen on the match. It would be easy to look at the scorecard and conclude that Finn and Onions are simply not Test quality and whilst there would be an element of truth to that, the reality is that they generally bowled quite well and the team let them down. Four catches were put down all told in the innings and the fields and tactics seemed slightly more defensive than usual. More than that though, the entire team just looked like they weren’t really there. Michael Vaughan made the good point on TMS that whilst England did not seem to miss the bowling of Jimmy, they did seem to miss his energy.
It would also be easy to say that England’s rotation policy is at fault here. That is certainly true, but we always knew we would miss Jimmy. Whilst I do not agree with the policy overall, once the first two days were lost I think it was a good idea. By playing Finn and Onions we got potentially important information on how they can fare at Test level and given that the match was overwhelmingly likely to end in a draw anyway, we did not lose much if anything. I think this is probably not at all far from what Flower was expecting to have happened (though perhaps not the poor fielding) and will consider it a success.
If this was a ‘bowl-off’ for a place against South Africa, Onions was the comfortable winner with 4-88. I doubt, however, whether this will be enough to get him in the XI for the Oval next month. England are still unlikely to play five bowlers, although I disagree with that policy, and Onions and Bresnan were still close enough that Bresnan’s batting will probably keep him in the side. Onions may have passed Finn in the pecking order, however.
During all this, Tino Best batted brilliantly to get the highest ever score by a number eleven in Tests. He was finally caught for 95, but it was his partner at the other end who sparked a bit of controversy. When Denesh Ramdin reached his century, he took a note out of his pocket and displayed it to the commentary box. The note suggested that Sir Vivian Richards stop criticising him. Whilst it was not a major point, it was poor form. The job of a commentator or analyst is to criticise at times and it was hardly as though the criticism of Ramdin had been unwarranted. It was a petty gesture and did take some of the gloss off the century.
England stumbled a bit in their reply and it was with this background that Sunil Narine came on for his first bowl in Test cricket. (He could have done so in April, but we’ll let that go for now…) I had heard before the match how he would be a threat to England, how he would make the West Indies competitive again. Which is why I wrote about why he should not be picked. (After which I heard even more support of Narine. As expected, the wicket was flat and England had worked him out after about an over. Narine took 0-70 in fifteen overs. He was not a wicket taking threat, he did not even trouble Finn when the latter came in as a nightwatchman, and he was not even vaguely keeping it tight. Ian Bell and Kevin Pietersen were both treating him with contempt by the time he came off. By comparison, Marlon Samuels took 1-29 in nine overs. Welcome to Test cricket…