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Match Analysis

West Indies veer away from the basics as batters' inexperience shows at Lord's

Even in the T20 age, Test cricket rewards the patience that underpins success

Nagraj Gollapudi
10-Jul-2024
Kavem Hodge sunk to his knees in shock. Both his gloved hands were clasped on the top of the bat handle as he looked at Alzarri Joseph, his batting partner, in disbelief.
Ollie Pope, standing well in front of the normal point position, had just caught a stunning catch to intercept a fiercely-cut square drive from Hodge off Chris Woakes, who shook his head, too, in disbelief. After staying at the crease for nearly 20 seconds in the aftermath of his dismissal, Hodge would finally start to head back slowly to the dressing room, while continuing to shake his head at what had just happened.
Pope had no business to pluck a catch like that and make it look ridiculously simple. He was standing on the outer edge of the third pitch from the Pavilion End when he instinctively put out both hands to his left as soon as Hodge cut a short Woakes delivery which was far outside his off stump for what he thought was a certain four. On reflection, did Hodge think he could have left that innocuous delivery? Or did he feel justified in going after a short delivery?
That kind of scrutiny is necessary because of the state of play at the time: West Indies, having been put into bat, were 88 for 6. The previous over, Gus Atkinson had erased West Indies middle order picking the trio of Alick Athanaze, Jason Holder and Joshua da Silva in four deliveries. Hodge was the last specialist batter. The match was still young: Woakes' was the 36th over of the match and eighth post-lunch.
Test cricket, even in this raging T20 age, rewards good basics. Basics underwrite success in the longest format. Atkinson, making his debut, prospered only because he was disciplined in his line, pitched most on a good length while delivering high speeds closer to 90mph/145kph. The slope when bowling from the Pavilion End, which fast bowlers struggle with at times, didn't distract Atkinson who used the scrambled seam, which he termed as his stock delivery and the "most dangerous" to trouble the batter.
Athanaze chased a delivery that was leaving him with hard hands straight to first slip. Holder, who has scored three centuries, including a double ton, in his previous 64 Tests, awkwardly defended a ball that was seaming away from the leg stump, with the edge again heading to the slips. Da Silva was all at sea against the ball that landed on the side of the seam and nipped in, taking an edge into the hands of his counterpart Jamie Smith.
In the three-day warm-up West Indies played last week, against a County Select XI, Hodge had scored a century with Athanaze and Mikyle Louis, who made his Test debut, scoring patient 50s. Despite the vast difference in bowling attacks, the three batters had shown composure to convert their starts. On Wednesday, though, impatience crept into the visitors' mindsets quickly.
Take Kraigg Brathwaite, the most experienced West Indies player and their lead batter. Brathwaite had been stranded for two overs at the other end as Louis, the first player from St Kitts to play Test cricket for West Indies, occupied strike. Brathwaite would have been impressed that Louis, who will turn 24 in August, had been obedient about playing the ball late in overcast conditions against the Dukes ball.
On Tuesday, speaking at the pre-match briefing, Brathwaite talked about how he would tell his batters to "trust your defence, whether you're going to attack or defend the ball, fully believe in yourself, and stay as still as possible." The captain, though, forgot his own counsel. Struggling on six runs off 31 balls, Brathwaite went chasing the second ball of Atkinson's first over and played on.
Louis, though, looked the most settled of all West Indies batters. Not only did he stay still, he allowed the ball to come him and then played it under his eyes or close to his body. A good defence invariably leads to a positive mindset as Louis picked a fuller delivery on his legs from Woakes to flick over the square leg for the only six on the first day.
But, this being his first tour, the tough examination followed soon. Ben Stokes used the crease and mixed the lines to bolt Louis in his crease, starving him of runs. This came in the period just before lunch. You could sense Stokes was setting up the young opener who eventually fell to a good ball, well caught at second slip by Harry Brook.
As former West Indies captain Jimmy Adams, who is their assistant coach, said it was a testing first day, the type that most of his young batters need as part of their education. Rest assured Adams and the West Indies coaching staff will remind their players: stick to the basics.

Nagraj Gollapudi is news editor at ESPNcricinfo

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