Cow Corner

The West Indies take a step forward

Cow Corner

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June 17, 2000 was the last day West Indies celebrated a Test match victory on English soil.

The Caribbean side were not the force of old then, but a quick look at the winning team that day points to a remarkable outfit.

Chris Gayle, Brian Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jimmy Adams, Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh all featured in that Test, hammering the English by an innings and 93 runs.

Today, the best part of 12 years and 15 Tests later, West Indies came about as close to winning here again as they have managed since.

Chanderpaul aside, there are no star turns in this line-up.

There are players of promise, as there always are, while players whose records are more accomplished — the likes of Chris Gayle, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Dwayne Bravo and Jerome Taylor to name just four — wait, for one reason or another, on the sidelines, or on the other side of the world.

England were not at their best, but they gave little away. They are a well-drilled side with burgeoning individual talent, and they've lost just once at home since the turn of the decade. Theirs was a deserved victory — but West Indies can claim a moral one.

The pessimist would point to this result and suggest that despite applying themselves wholeheartedly to this Test and virtually eliminating the lapses of concentration that have hurt them so badly in the past, they still finished, ultimately, a distant second-best.

Equally, without the contribution of the man ranked the world's best batsman, Chanderpaul — an unbeaten 87 not out in the first innings, and 91 in the second — their challenge would have faltered far sooner than it did. Chanderpaul is quietly spectacular with the willow in hand, but even he will not succeed innings after innings.

But make no mistake, West Indies should head into the second Test fortified by a cocktail of optimism laced with the sharp taste of defeat.

Only in the final session of day five did West Indies truly let their standards slip, with Kemar Roach's no-balling crossing the front foot line from frustrating to poor, and Marlon Samuels continuing to bowl innocuous off spin in the face of all logic.

They also worked hard in their last Test series, a 2-0 home defeat to the Australians, which was a good deal closer than the scoreline suggested.

They were scarcely given a prayer of causing an upset here before the match began. At one stage on day three an innings defeat looked more likely than a fifth-day joust.

And that display is all the more impressive given their preparations, which the English weather threatened to render farcical.

They managed little more than a four-day mauling at the hands of England Lions by way of warm-up, having scarcely got outside in the May rain.

Meanwhile three of their squad arrived at the last minute due to a bemusing mix of visa reasons and IPL commitments.

With the weather a good 15C colder than they were playing in last month, the ball jagging around, and England a considerably better side now than the one that walloped them three years ago, West Indies should allow themselves a modicum of satisfaction regarding their performance.

If, in the longer term, they can find a way of reintegrating the likes of Gayle, Sarwan and Dwayne Bravo into the side without losing the work ethic which head coach Ottis Gibson and Sammy have been trying to instil, then West Indies may not become world-beaters again, but they might just stop being Test cricket's whipping boys.

There have been many false dawns in the past decade of Caribbean cricket — don't forget that just three years ago, for instance, West Indies fought tooth and nail to beat an England side featuring more than half of the line-up which took to the field at Lord's 1-0 in a four-match series in the Caribbean.

This effort at Lord's will count for very little if they follow it up by slipping into familiar patterns like a recovering alcoholic hitting the bar.

But it was a start.

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USER COMMENT OF THE DAY: "After the England team starting with B the other day, this is the 11 D's that make up the England supporters on the boards: Distrust, Despair, Doubt, Depression, Doomsayer, Dedication, Determination, Devotion, Durability, Doggedness, Discussion" — Telaw articulates the emotions of England fans following the over-by-over commentary on our site — regardless of whether the team is winning or losing...

TWEET OF THE DAY: "England cruising after early alarms. The current Samuels-Sammy 'attack' must be what you dream of as a batsman in a 5th-day run chase." @Zaltzcricket

STAT OF THE DAY: 191 represented England's third-highest successful fourth-innings chase at Lord's in their history. And you were worried...

SNAP OF THE DAY: Does Alastair Cook mind getting out having scored 79 and taken England to the brink of victory? You decide...

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