West Indies crack as the gradient steepens

Test cricket is famously hard. Some can’t quite comprehend what that means, thinking a reverse-swinging 90mph yorker is the same no matter what the format. It’s not all about the details though. Sometimes it’s the sheer relentlessness.

Test cricket is like cycling uphill. It’s possible to cope with a small hill without too much difficulty, but a Test match is more like Mont Ventoux, where Tom Simpson lost his life despite his loyalty to the recommended sportsman’s diet of booze and amphetamines. Test cricket goes on and on and it can be hard to say which team will crack until the gradient steepens.

The current West Indies team is pretty hard

For quite some time, West Indies batsmen had the flair of old, only without the ability. They folded like a great wad of junk mail. Test matches fair skipped along and they lost them all. This has changed of late.

Recently, Shiv-like batsmen have been selected and the bowling has had a collective purpose. The masterplan revolves around hard work. Like Nasser Hussain’s England, the West Indies are no longer easy to beat, even if they don’t win many.

In the first Test against Australia, it was like they were paying time and a half down at the windmill as the Windies batsmen ground and ground. Then, when they bowled, they did so with discipline, not running through the Australian line-up, but whittling away at it.

However…

Australia’s lower order hung in. Clearly the team as a whole has stamina. West Indies had hung in throughout the climb, but this is where they started to lose touch with the peloton. A pleasingly non-conformist declaration from Michael Clarke with his side still 43 behind then exposed the West Indies batsmen to the steeper gradient and so far they have all been spat out the back, their strength sapped by their previous efforts.

As we said, sometimes it’s the sheer relentlessness. Test cricket is famously hard.

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13 Appeals

  1. Clarke’s declaration was a masterpiece. The one thing that the Australians understand better than anyone else is that test cricket is a game played at least half in the mind, and that you can play the game there just as much as you can play it on the pitch. Maybe that’s two things, albeit two closely related things. I just don’t know any more.

    Clarke said to the West Indies batsmen – “You can’t do it again.” It was a risk, but the one thing that the Australians understand better than anyone else is that sometimes you have to take risks in test cricket. The WI batsmen walked out uncertain, with a lack of clear facts. Why did he do that? Surely he can’t be thinking of winning from here? For that to happen, we’d have to collapse horribly. Oh…

    The English are terrible at taking risks. Sometimes we seem happier to lose conservatively than to take risks and try to win (see previous discussions on Kevin Pietersen). As long as anyone would have done the same thing, as long as at the end there is nobody to blame. The English say, “What if it goes wrong?” Clarke said, “What if it goes right?” This is our primary weakness, and is the one thing that the Australians understand better than anyone else.

    • I was desperately hoping for a while that you were just sounding sarcastic, but it seems you’re genuinely praising Clarke there, Bert, and someone has to take a stand. Declaring 30 runs short when the scores are upward of 400 is really not that *risky* a decision, nor does it take a lot of imagination. Everybody hopes to bowl a few and get some wickets, hoping that the test match might be rescued from the inevitable draw it seems to be heading toward.

      Seeing as your past record is clean, I am prepared to believe that this was but a passing weakness in that otherwise shrewd mind of yours.

    • My mind has never been shrewed. How dare you! I wouldn’t even know how one went about shrewing a mind.

      But anyway, 103 for 6 now. That’s a lead of 140-odd. So, clearly Darren Sammy should declare. No Australian team has ever successfully chased 140-odd. It is known to be the second hardest total to chase in all of test cricket (after 940-odd). And after declaring they should all huddle round Michael Clarke mocking his manhood for declaring so late. I’ve written a song for them to sing:

      Oh Clarkey, your declaration was so late
      That it must be assumed you are a coward
      There’s no chance Lara Bingle will come back to you now
      She’s more likely to go out with John Howard
      [Repeat x 10,000]

      Thus, a WI win by 70 runs.

    • It’s all well and good to say that it’s a non-risky declaration even though Aussie’s are behind but look around the skippering world of international test cricket. What other skipper would do it? In the first test match of a series? Strauss and Dhoni sure as shooting wouldn’t. Not sure Smith would either. In fact, I’m sure he wouldn’t. Shahid Afridi might but that’s because he’s mad – that’s why they won’t let him skipper anymore.

    • King Cricket

      April 11, 2012 at 5:23 pm

      Shahid Afridi would have declared at 14-0.

    • ….and proceed to eat the new ball.

  2. Paying time and a half down at the windmill?

    • King Cricket

      April 11, 2012 at 11:30 am

      Windmills grind.

      At least they used to. Now they convert the kinetic energy of air in motion into electricity.

  3. Oh.

    *Tumbleweed*

  4. Now I hate Michael Clarke. I hate him more than any other current player. I hate his waggly head, his ‘ascension’ to the Australian captaincy, his haunted squeaks when he nicks one to the keeper. I prefer Shane Watson – by miles.

    But that declaration was brilliant. The third innings is always a killer innings, especially in a nailed-on draw, it’s ripe for ballsing up.

    Bloody Michael Clarke being better than I wish he’d be again.

    • I like his howled ‘wait on’ when assessing a run. It’s the only thing I’ve ever heard him say clearly on a cricket pitch.

    • “Wait on” GAHHH!!! I hate that the most. That makes me smash things. I’d prefer to hear watch our favourite King Cricket advert (http://tinyurl.com/yh86o96) on a loop to hearing him ever say “Wait On” again. The bastard.

  5. The thing that has amazed me most about this test is not Clarke’s captaincy or the West Indies’ batting obduracy/flakiness, but rather the continued second coming of Ben Hilfenhaus. He looked finished after the most recent Ashes series. Not much more than a year later, he’s got 37 wickets in the 6 tests he has played since then, four of them in the second innings of this match. Which is very good. It’s always nice to see a fast-bowling sinner redeemed as well, even if he is an Aussie.

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