By Nilavro Ghosh and Megha Mallick
England host West Indies in the first game of cricket since the coronavirus pandemic brought the sport to an unexpected halt. The two nations lock horns in the Raise the Bat test series to be played from July 8 to July 28.
Rain played spoilsport in the return of the gentleman’s game at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton. The match could not get off to a steady start until after lunch and the umpires called stumps after 17.4 overs right before tea due to poor light.
The players took the knee before the match began in support of the Black Lives Matter movement and as a show of respect to all those who lost their lives to Covid 19.
England won the toss and decided to bat first in conditions that offered more swing to the Windies fast bowlers than debutante captain Ben Stokes might have predicted. Quickie Shannon Gabriel drew first blood as he deceived opener Dom Sibley with a delivery that came into the right-hander and clipped the top of off stump as the batsman attempted to leave.
Joe Denly and Rory Joseph Burns steadied the ship for the day with a few cracking shots on the off side but the conditions were in favor of the fast bowlers.
The English finished the day at 35 runs for the loss of one wicket at the end of the day.
It was all about the West Indian fast bowler Shannon Gabriel and captain Jason Holder on the day as the duo picked up all ten wickets to bundle up the English batting lineup for 204 runs. Holder picked up his best ever bowling figures at 6-42.
Gabriel commenced the destruction of England’s batting in the 24th over when he knocked over Joe Denly with a delivery similar to his previous wicket taking one. Two overs later, he dismissed opener Burns with an lbw.
Holder got his first wicket in the 34th over when he dismissed Zak Crawley and England were four down for 71 runs. Captain Ben Stokes and Ollie Pope seemed determined to steady the ship a bit when the latter nicked the ball straight to the keeper and Holder got his second in the 38th over.
Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes stuck around for a long while, each playing a crucial part in an important 67 run partnership that lifted England’s score to 154-5. However, the English captain was sent to the showers by his opposite number as he was caught behind in the 54th over after a well played 43 from 96 balls.
Buttler’s cameo of 35 came to an end thanks to a superb catch by Windies keeper Shane Dowrich from a Holder delivery. The captain took two more wickets of Jofra Archer and Mark Wood to achieve his best ever bowling figures in the format of 6-42.
Dom Bess remained not out and played a decent 33 from 44 balls alongside James Anderson before Gabriel knocked over the latter for his fourth and the hosts’ innings came to an end at 204.
The West Indies batting was opened by Kraigg Brathwaite and John Campbell while Stokes looked to James Anderson to give them an early breakthrough.
After two lbw decisions overturned by DRS, Anderson finally got his man John Campbell in the 14th over to make it 43-1.
Play did not continue long afterwards as deteriorating light played a factor and stumps was called at 19.3 overs with the West Indies trailing by 147 runs.
The West Indies were bowled out for 318 runs as they established a lead of 114 over the hosts with a number of impressive batting performances.
Opener Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase and Shane Dowrich contributed with good scores of 65, 47 and 61 respectively to help the Windies get past 300 runs.
Shai Hope was the first one to be dismissed on the day after Stokes took a good catch at first slip from a Dom Bess delivery. Brathwaite was the next to go as Stokes picked up his first wicket of the day making the score 140-3.
The following couple of wickets came in relatively quick succession as Sharmarh Brooks and Jermaine Blackwood were dismissed by Anderson and Bess respectively. What followed was a crucial partnership between Dowrich and Chase. The Windies were five down for 186 at this stage.
The duo combined to play some cracking strokes around the pitch mixed with sensible batting for a partnership of 81 runs before Chase was sent back to the showers by Anderson, only three runs short of his half century. The Windies were now six down for 267.
The lower order batsmen failed to make an impact on the game except Alzarri Joseph’s quickfire 18 from 12 balls, and the West Indies were bowled out for 318. Shane Dowrich ended his innings on 61 before Stokes took his wicket.
The England captain picked up four, Anderson three, Bess a couple and Mark Wood one.
The day was brought to an end with England trailing by 99 after 10 overs, Sibley on five and Burns on ten.
The English batsmen added 269 runs to their overnight tally of 15, batting out the entire fourth day. Openers Rory Burns and Dominic Sibley scored 42 and 50 before getting out to Roston Chase and Shannon Gabriel, respectively.
Number four Zak Crawley and captain Ben Stokes put up a 98-run partnership, slowly increasing the lead. Stokes was caught by Shai Hope off Jason Holder’s bowling, while Crawley, who scored his highest runs in tests (76), fell prey to Alzarri Joseph.
Wickets of these two brought Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler to the crease, both of whom were on 0. Buttler was given LBW to Holder, but used DRS to overturn the decision, but was soon bowled by Joseph for 9. Of what might concern Buttler, he has just one century in the last 42 tests.
Gabriel bowled out Pope and Dom Bess. At stumps, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood were batting at 5 and 1, respectively. England were 284/8 and had a lead of 170 runs over the visitors.
Shannon Gabriel removed the overnight batsmen very soon after the start of the day’s play. West Indies were left with a target of 200 runs to win the match and go 1-0 up in the three-match test series.
In an initial scare, Windies were 35/3 at lunch, with John Campbell retiring hurt, Kraigge Brathwaite and Shamarh Brooks falling to Jofra Archer and Shai Hope being bowled out by Mark Wood.
Post-lunch, Roston Chase was removed by Archer for 37, but by then, West Indies were on 100, needing a 100 more runs to win. Shane Dowrich, who scored 20 before falling to the English captain, survived a bouncer from Archer which hit his left elbow and was caught at slip. He was given out but overturned the decision through DRS.
At tea, Windies were 143/4, needing 57 runs to win the test.
Blackwood was given not out on a delivery from Mark Wood, but England challenged it. The on-field decision was retained and the hosts lost a review. Within the next twenty minutes, England lost their second review as well, asking for an LBW while Dowrich was batting.
When he was finally caught behind, West Indies were at 168/5.
Unfortunately, after having several close shaves, including dropped catches by Dom Bess and Jos Buttler, Blackwood was caught off Stokes, missing his century by five runs. Campbell, who had earlier retired hurt, came back to score the last eleven runs that his team needed to win. He hit the winning single.
Jason Holder remained not out on 14. The match would be a memorable personal triumph for him, marking his best figures in Tests of 6/42 during England’s first innings. Gabriel was awarded the Man of the Match for his tally of nine wickets over the two England innings.
The second test starts on July 16 at the Old Trafford Cricket Ground, Manchester. West Indies would look to continue their winning run, and seal a Test series on England soil after 32 years.
By Nilavro Ghosh
After almost two decades with an irreplaceable warrior behind the stumps, India must do the impossible, replace him.
One of the biggest challenges in team sports has always been replacing a legend. Be it Cristiano Ronaldo at Real Madrid or AB de Villiers in the South African cricket team, the departure of a legendary player leaves the team with a gaping hole which is often not filled for a long period of time. The pressure that comes with stepping into the boots of such a player can severely damage a youngster’s confidence from which they might never recover.
The Indian cricket team have had the privilege of having a rock behind the stumps for almost two decades now in the form of Mahendra Singh Dhoni, a man who has revolutionized wicket-keeping and has won more international trophies than any Indian cricketer as captain, including the 2011 cricket world cup. Now, at the back end of his career with only a few years left to give, India must look elsewhere for a new guard behind the stumps, a task which is proving to be an near impossible challenge.
The Board of Control for Cricket in India (BCCI) headed by former captain Sourav Ganguly has three main candidates on the table: Rishabh Pant, KL Rahul and Ishan Kishan. While there are more experienced players like Dinesh Karthik and Wriddhiman Saha, they are not feasible for long term plans.
The board seems to favour Pant as the next permanent keeper, but the youngster’s inconsistency has planted doubts over his ability in a large number of people’s minds. He is not yet dependable with the bat to make a difference for India and his wicket keeping performances for the national team have not compensated that shortcoming. He is infamous for dropping sitters and missing out on easy stumping opportunities.
KL Rahul is on the verge on becoming a permanent starter for India thanks to his impressive batting, but his wicket-keeping abilities are not something coach Ravi Shastri is willing to rely on yet. Rahul has not stood behind the stumps for a long time and might have to work a lot to rid himself of any rust. He is more likely to be a back up keeper in the starting 11 like former cricketer Rahul Dravid.
Ishan Kishan’s potential is yet to be tapped into by the national team, but the youngster’s endearing performances in the Indian Premier League (IPL) and First Class cricket. The 22-year-old captained the Indian side to the final of the under-19 cricket World Cup in 2016 but lost to the West Indies. His abilities as a captain, wicket-keeping prowess, and explosive batting style is similar to M.S. Dhoni but it is too early to draw parallels.
As things stand, however, Rishabh Pant is in prime position to replace M.S. Dhoni behind the stumps in all formats of the game.