In a test series that was defined by flat pitches, enormous 1st innings batting scores and unstable outfields, Andrew Strauss can feel relieved to be at the end of a frustrating period for the English team. However, the long term implications for test cricket are hardly encouraging.
After leaving the field at Trinidad, Andrew Strauss will probably have felt hard done by and why shouldn’t he? Having declared with two sessions of the test match to be played, and coming within two wickets of a series deciding test match win, despite the lifeless deck, ultimately England left the ground with nothing to show for their efforts. The declaration should have been taken twenty minutes before lunch, that cannot be denied, but England made a stunning attempt at an unlikely test match win nonetheless. Where was this level of intensity before? Had there been no reverse swing on offer at all during the West Indies’ mammoth 1st innings in Trinidad? It almost seemed as if, along with the great British sporting tradition, England needed to be against the tide and within a faint sniff of victory in order to bring out the very best in themselves. Stuart Broad and James Anderson in particular, with a back breaking series behind them on a whole series of benign wickets, looked phenomenal. The latter of which was getting the ball to swing and climb off the seam viciously.
Granted the pitch may have deteriorated, this being the fifth day, but only minimally. Batting still looked fundamentally simple on this wicket. Thus the gravity and proportion of England’s efforts are further emphasised. This is an encouraging sign for England’s hopes against Australia in the Ashes series this summer. If James Anderson can extract movement from these impossible conditions, what damage could he inflict in overcast conditions and on historically uneven and moist pitches in England?
We should also pay particular attention to Kevin Pietersen’s innings, as stunning as it was, it should have been cut short. From watching the footage there seemed to be a battle of the egos between Strauss and Pietersen when his innings was still sixteen short of a hundred. Strauss should have taken control of the situation and allowed time to bowl before lunch. Yet England were frustrated to the end by the West Indian tail-enders, as they had been at the Antigua recreation ground during the fifth day of the revised third test.
Despite this West Indian effort, the real winners of this series were the pitches, providing an absolute run feast all the way through, not including of course England’s dramatic second innings collapse at Jamaica which ultimately decided the series. In total the series has seen four completed tests and fourteen innings, yielding 5, 272 runs, with an average first innings score of 499.6 by either side. These figures speak volumes about the nature of the wickets being played on. Aside from the first test, the majority of this series for the most part was fundamentally dull beyond belief. The fourth test being the furthest away from a result all the way through, and thus being the least enjoyable. This is despite the close fought draws at Antigua and Trinidad, which for the most part were also painful to watch.
England were ultimately the better side at Antigua and Trinidad, but their efforts were all in vein due to the unbearably dry, flat and rock hard pitches. The ICC must begin to take action on the increasing number of batsman’s paradises for pitches that are failing to respond to the most arduous efforts of seamers from all around the world, or the demise of test cricket will be upon us sooner rather than later. Test matches such as this are simply becoming televised batting practice. It may be the purest form of the game, but in this case purity is no substitute for an actual contest between bat and ball.
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