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England v West Indies 2020: Cricket's return both sweet and sour

Joe Denly flicks through mid-wicket.
Joe Denly flicks through mid-wicket.
Aryan Surana
ANALYST
Modified 09 Jul 2020
Feature

Rory Burns chucked his wrist band away after schlepping past the advertisement hoardings. Such vehement bursts of emotion typically ensue when batsmen nick behind while flashing their blades recklessly or fall victim to an umpiring howler.

Though Burns' vexation stemmed courtesy of forces beyond human influence. As the southpaw threw his paraphernalia in mild angst once another drizzle persisted and eventually drew curtains on the day's play, billions across the globe with their eyes transfixed to the television screen, yearning for cricketing action, echoed similar sentiments.

Weather shenanigans might have hampered cricket's much-awaited resurgence, allowing a paltry 17.4 overs to be delivered, but yet there were moments dazzling enough interspersed between the agonizing rain interruptions. For starters, Shannon Gabriel set alarm bells ringing within England's dressing room early.

Relishing the first bite of the cherry, the lanky medium-pacer unfurled an assortment of outswingers at Dom Sibley who judiciously gauged the ploy and kept leaving them alone at first. Albeit, having coaxed Sibley into a false sense of security, Gabriel, with the slightest grip variation, jagged one back on a whim to witness the right-hander erroneously shoulder arms and have his off-stump toppled.

While Burns oozed confidence right from the outset, Joe Denly's batting veered between the exquisite and gruesome. That too, rather haphazardly. An audacious short-arm pull off Gabriel was followed by an iffy edge which bisected with surgical precision the gap between third slip and gully for four runs.

West Indies pacers trouble England batsmen on Day 1

Gabriel did bear the brunt of Denly's rasping square cut, but also on several occasions posed stern challenges for him with the variable bounce and lateral movement. Sustained mediocrity punctuated by flashes of brilliance has anyway been the recurring theme of Denly's career graph hitherto.

Operating in tandem with Gabriel, Kemar Roach clocked searing pace too, besides extracting generous purchase from the seven-meter length, and you couldn't help but wonder why the hosts left out veteran Stuart Broad from the playing XI.

That Jason Holder benched Rahkeem Cornwall was equally befuddling since the pitch owns a subcontinental wheatish hue and looks prone to wear and tear as the game progresses. However, it doesn't take a genius to fathom that West Indies fancied cushioning their timid middle-order with an extra batsman, even if the load burgeoned significantly on the pace battery as a repercussion.

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The protagonists are still getting themselves familiar with the nitty-gritty of how matches will transpire amidst the coronavirus hysteria, and wiping out the habits deeply entrenched into the muscle-memory is going to take a while. Holder reflexively offering Ben Stokes a quick handshake when the latter won the toss provided glaring testimony. No doubt the captains shared a jovial laugh before rushing for the sanitizer.

The sport which has ruled our hearts forever has reincarnated itself, refusing to buckle under the pandemic's onslaught. The blessing of sunshine is now all it needs to resurrect upon gloomy faces those beaming, cherubic smiles.

Published 09 Jul 2020, 07:47 IST
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