Playing in Asia might have exposed England’s frailties but at home, playing in familiar conditions, they are always going to be a force to reckon with and that too when the opponent is a lot inferior in terms of rankings vis-à-vis their numero uno standing. That said, looking at the recently concluded Test, it is certainly not going to be a stroll in the park for England. The fight put up by the West Indies in the first Test will make England more cautious of the visitors going into the second Test at Trent Bridge. The West Indies lost the first Test but they were not completely outplayed; there were positives for them that they can build upon, while for England there are a few lapses that need to be done away with.
Chanderpaul has been the main performer for the West Indies. And it seems his resistance at the crease has been, to some extent, successful in inspiring other players to deliver and shoulder responsibility. But their inexperienced top order failed to put up anything concrete on the board. If the openers – Adrian Barath and Kieran Powell- are yet to find their feet in Test cricket, it is the talent and good Test averages of 47.89 and 43.86, respectively, of Darren Bravo and Kirk Edwards, which raise the expectations of a captain who never gives up. Chanderpaul has been exceptional. The assiduity with which he has batted in tough English conditions has been remarkable. His good form since India toured the Caribbean in June 2011 continues. Others in the lower order have shown some positive signs; hopefully they will do well again but it is not going to be easy, especially against the world’s best seam and swing bowling in the helpful conditions of England.
Stuart Broad seems to have come of age. His maturity was conspicuous in the first Test match at Lords where he scalped eleven wickets to get his name carved on the Honours Board at Lords. The other two of the pace trio – James Anderson and Tim Bresnan, have been very effective too. And with them supported by the specialist spinner, Swann, skipper Andrew Strauss would have no qualms over boasting about the superiority of his bowlers. The toughest task, or maybe the only task, bowlers will have on their hands will be to dismiss the defiant Chanderpaul cheaply.
England has a solid batting line-up to tackle whatever West Indies will bowl at them. For the Windies, Kemar Roach will hold the key again, and he can prove menacing. High in spirit, Roach’s trajectory has occasionally foxed England’s batsmen. With Gabriel out of the series with an injury, it is most likely that Ravi Rampaul will join forces with Roach, Fidel Edwards and Darren Sammy to complete the pace attack. Having an economy of 2.53 in seven Test matches, Shane Shillingford will most likely replace the unproductive and wayward Marlon Samuels.
Both the skippers contributed in the first Test match. Andrew Strauss regained his form with an impressive 122, and he will be looking forward to carry the momentum into the second Test. Darren Sammy has been WI’s most economical bowler. He may not possess the strength to demolish batting line-ups, but with crucial breakthroughs in the middle, he ensures that the bowler at the other end is not left unsupported. Certainly, Strauss has been more tactical, which is something that Sammy needs to learn in order to utilize his resources better.
From England’s point of view, they need to ensure no lapse in concentration, for anything like that could put them in a situation akin to what they were into during the second innings of the first Test, before Ian Bell came to their rescue. On the other hand, while this would be difficult but not impossible, West Indies’ top order batsmen will have to perform well to provide a platform for the middle order to build on, in order to produce a defendable score for their fairly good bowling attack.
Only time will tell if it will be a contest merely between the number one Test team and the number one Test batsman, or a contest between two unequally matched but equally spiritied teams.