Saturday, February 24, 2018

Oval distraction


CELEBRATION TIME: West Indies players Jerome Taylor, left, Darren Bravo, second from left, and Sulieman Benn, third from left, celebrate the fall of a New Zealand wicket on the first day of the second Test at Queen’s Park Oval, Port of Spain, on Monday. --Photo: ANISTO ALVES

Mark Fraser

A day at the cricket has been a less frequent experience for me this season; and not by design. But for this West Indies versus New Zealand Test match, I am determined to make up for lost time; even if that means taking my eyes off the World Cup for a couple hours. World Cup fever though is like dust; it gets into everything, including the Queen’s Park Oval.

Monday, 11.30am,

Gerry Gomez Media centre

“Portugal is a football team?” West Indies Cricket Board media officer Adriel “Woody” Richard is asking, challenge ripe in his tone. The first match for Woody’s beloved Germans and the Portuguese is less than half hour away, but he is in a belligerent mood. He gets some support. “Portugal is something to eat!” chimes in the local cricket board’s media man Zaid Mohammed.

That is what Woody is expecting his Germans will do in a few minutes. The football talk is livening up the room in a way the cricket is not doing. Guardian reporter Venode Mamchan is offering to bring coffee to various people. He’s sure they will need it as New Zealand proceed calmly to lunch, only one wicket down for 86.

The Oval pitch may have a tinge of encouraging green, but there seemed to be no special challenge for the batsmen. West Indies, playing Shannon Gabriel for the injured Shane Shillingford, did not make Tim Latham, Hamish Rutherford and Kane Williamson play at the ball often enough, not in areas that would get them out. Lunch score not encouraging: 81-1


The Germans feasted on their Portugal, 4-0. Woody can’t stop talking about it. But the West Indies players could not be as content having their tea right now. They got two more wickets in the second session. But they should have had more. The Windies missed about five chances after lunch, four of them going to hand.

Dangerous Ross Taylor tried his best to get out. He cut straight to new boy Jermaine Blackwood. Ball went through him. Bowler Sulieman Benn was not pleased.

Taylor then gave catching practice to Denesh Ramdin and Chris Gayle. He put the ball between them and they watched it and each other as it went for four. Why only one slip for your fast bowler at this stage?

And just to test whether this was one of those days when he could do anything and get away with hit, Ross struck the same bowler Jerome Taylor up the on-side of the pitch, only for the man placed close-in there, Kirk Edwards to put down the catch.

With that they all went to tea. How different 159 for three would have been but for all that! Big Benn only had one wicket up to that time, but he had applied enough pressure to have taken about three.

Three is what he eventually ended up with though. The last session turned the day around. Taylor stepped it up, bowling consistently on a full length, the fielders started holding catches again and the wickets began tumbling down.

West Indies have so missed Taylor’s skill with the ball and awareness of what is required in a given situation. Hope he can stay fit. Taylor and Benn put WI back in the match with New Zealand all out for 221. Good comeback. But will those missed chances still turn out to be a factor later on?


End of play near; end of Gayle already. Big man looked very uncertain at the crease, and did not cover his off-stump for the one that Trent Boult bowled him with. Benn replaced him for night watchman work. Wish they would stop with that. Let the specialists go and bat. This will be an early wicket in the morning.

Tuesday, 10.30am

Took the bowlers four-and-a-half overs to get rid of Benn. It was a bit much to expect he would last too long against the still new ball. Kirk Edwards now gets the chance to earn his pay.

Lunch, noon

Good morning’s play. Entertaining. Surprising really.

Didn’t expect that West Indian batsmen, so lacking in runs lately, to have played so positively. Give Edwards credit. He didn’t let rookie off-spinner Mark Craig settle. Played sweetly through the covers and thumped him for a couple sixes too. Jimmy Neesham also got slapped around too in his 55.

The big surprise was that Kraigg Brathwaite took his cue. He shed his default slow mode and attacked Craig, even when New Zealand captain Brendon McCullum packed the avenue through midwicket for the off-spinner.

Even when Edwards went, Darren Bravo got 10 runs off his first three balls. It was good cricket, the batsmen attacking and the fielding side staying on the attack, close fielders flocking around the batsmen like corbeaux circling for food.

Gus Logie, West Indies hero and coach of not so long ago was there taking it all in. Not too many others were there with him, such are the times, so different to when he played Tests here. Didn’t miss the World Cup this morning. Hope the rest of this match is as much of a distraction.