If you envision the next Chanderpaul, the first thing you picture is a younger version of the current Chanderpaul – a crabby, left-handed batsman who has Chanderpaul’s face and Chanderpaul’s oversized cricket gear. What you don’t picture is a two metre tall right-hander who’s actually a bowler. Nevertheless, Jason Holder delivered a Shivnarine Chanderpaulesque performance to save the first Test. It was fully admirable.
There are other bowlers who’ve never made a first-class century before who’ve danced their way to their first in a Test match. Holder’s team-mate Jerome Taylor is one. He made 106 off 107 balls against New Zealand and that’s generally the way it works: a few lusty hits in fairly unchallenging circumstances; the opposition rolling their eyes or getting frustrated.
Holder’s effort was very different. Holder played an innings. It was beyond responsibility. It was nothing less than a blunt refusal to allow the opposition to win – this in a team that has frequently folded like junk mail forced through one of those powerfully sprung letterboxes that only opens about 8mm even when you apply maximum force.
As for England, the players who played played well enough. Even Cook’s captaincy was pretty decent. Pretty much all of the bowlers were controlled and disciplined, but control and discipline are secondary qualities on a flat, slow pitch when wickets are all you care about. What you want then is an injection of chaos. Five bowlers who deliver chaos is too many but you need at least one.
But this is why you play a Test series. The new ball didn’t swing for long, reverse swing was hard to come by. Armed with these facts, we’ll judge England based on how they line up and perform in the second Test.