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Many things happened during the UK’s first day-night of Test cricket, but the most memorable was the 81st over.
The whole focus of the day was on what would happen when a new pink ball was used under lights – but no-one told the captain of the bowling side.
It was like going to a Lou Bega gig only for him to finish with one of his earlier Mambos. It was like queuing up at the Westvleteren Brewery only to be handed half a mug of lukewarm Ovaltine. The whole reason why people were here was wilfully overlooked.
Jason Holder opted against taking the new ball when it became available and instead bowled three insipid nothing deliveries with the old one before limping off. Roston Chase finished the over with a bit of off-spin and then opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite bowled the next over.
Sometimes a delay can build tension, but in this case it was only an exercise in pissing it all away. The West Indies didn’t have an excellent day.
Alastair Cook did. He was top-scorer and bats on. Joe Root also made a hundred.
India failed to chase down 190 against the West Indies and there were a couple of prominent reasons for this.
Firstly, MS Dhoni hit India’s slowest half-century in 16 years – although ‘hit’ seems an entirely inappropriate word to use for an innings of 54 off 114 balls. MS Dhoni bobbled India’s slowest half-century in 16 years. He was there until six balls to go too, so his soporific knock actually took in much of ‘the slog’ .
Another reason for India’s low score was Jason Holder.
— CricketWestIndies (@westindies) July 2, 2017
When we first caught sight of Holder, we thought ‘ooh hell’ or something along those lines. Two metres tall, a seam bowler who could bat, we had visions of Curtly Ambrose as an all-rounder. After watching him play, he came across as more of an Angus Fraser/Chris Tavaré character.
While that would be many people’s dream cricketer, it was nevertheless an interesting contrast to one’s expectations. He was clearly a committed cricketer, but a labouring one to whom results didn’t appear to come easily.
For a long time the effort-plus-raw-ingredients-equals-results equation didn’t really add up for Holder, but the final part has been increasing in value for a while now. He took 5-27 against India and if he’s still coming on second or third change in Tests, here he was opening the bowling.
There’s more to come. Albeit probably in the form of a self-destructive diktat from the West Indies Cricket Board.
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.