West Indies show grit after Anderson strikes - 05-17-2012, 10:19 AM
Adrian Barath impressed on the opening morning of the series © Getty Images
A cool, inhospitable English spring is a daunting challenge for West Indies and when James Anderson, England's player of the year, has a Dukes ball in his hand, the task is all the more challenging. Anderson predictably made inroads in what for him were near-perfect bowling conditions with two wickets by lunch, but that was the full extent of England's rewards and West Indies had been rewarded for a responsible effort by lunch.
Barath's first cover drive against Anderson brought a wicked inswinger in return which struck him in the midriff, but he produced a more sumptuous cover drive in Anderson's next over to emphasise that on his part at least there would be no sense of defeatism.
Anderson bowled Kieran Powell with a superb delivery that snaked back to take the top of off-stump and had Kirk Edwards lbw. He was back in the old routine, again presenting himself as arguably the greatest proponent of swing bowling in the world. He even gave the on-field pep talk before play began. He is a man of few words and has probably found that an equally difficult skill to master.
West Indies, though, had reason for satisfaction, no-one more so than Adrian Barath, the Trinidadian opener, who had an impressive morning. His succession of cultured cover drives were the most uplifting aspect of the first session for West Indies as Anderson swung the ball consistently. His stand with Darren Bravo was worth 51 by lunch and there was reason for England supporters to rue Andrew Strauss' conservatism when Bravo edged his first ball, from Anderson, at catchable height through a vacant fourth slip.
Support for Anderson was mixed. Stuart Broad was not quite at his best and Tim Bresnan, who was preferred to Graham Onions or Steve Finn, was solid but unspectacular, beginning with four maidens and bowling nine overs for 14 runs by lunch as he sought to build pressure in what has become England's distinctive manner. England have won all 11 Tests that he has played (Adam Gilchrist won his first 15 for Australia) but it was a borderline selection.
It was no surprise that England chose to bowl. The pitch was white and gleaming but it was what lay above and below that mattered. The groundsman, Mick Hunt, regarded underlying moisture as inevitable and up above the cloud cover added to the sense that batting would be difficult. As it turned out, there was more swing - and mostly for Anderson - than seam.
Then there was the matter of West Indies' recent history. West Indies sides coming to England used to invite a sense of awe. These days, for many they bring a sense of regret, a regret at their inability to stand alongside the first tier nations, illustrated by their record of two wins in their past 30 Tests.
Weakened by the financial inducements of the IPL, they have been further hindered by an inhospitable English spring. The great West Indian sides could strut their stuff in midsummer in conditions that were more in their favour, but weaker West Indies sides have become the English season's support act and so must play their Test cricket earlier when conditions are stacked against them. It makes their task of recovery doubly difficult
A match initially scheduled for Cardiff had been switched to Lord's which at least ensured the West Indies could play in front of England's most even-handed Test crowd, not that Lord's was perfect. There will be an inquest, no doubt, about how Kieron Powell became Kieron Pollard on the Lord's scoreboard. To see Pollard, a muscular Twenty20 specialist, opening in a Test would be quite something.
As it was, soon after Powell's name was corrected on the scoreboard, it was removed, courtesy of Anderson. Powell flirted with an outswinger and that must have still been in his mind and he pushed reluctantly at an inswinger that curved back onto the top of off-stump.
Anderson followed up with the wicket of Edwards in his eighth over. His first ball to Edwards must have convinced him of the rigours of a murky English spring, a ball that hopped back wickedly to strike the pad but too much for England to challenge umpire Marais Erasmus' not-out ruling. He was rendered strokeless, proceeding with the caution of an outnumbered Wild West gunslinger crouched behind a rock, before he fell lbw to a routine angled delivery.
England gave a Test debut to Jonny Bairstow, the 13th father-son combination to play Tests for England. He was awarded his cap before start of play during a lengthy discussion with Geoffrey Boycott, now Yorkshire president and a close family friend. Shannon Gabriel was given a first Test cap by West Indies after Ravi Rampaul was ruled out with a stiff neck.
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