Beating Derbyshire is better than a kick in the pants. But an easy win against the team that lies next to bottom of the Second Division of the Championship is no deep massage for morale after two devastating Test defeats.
By 10 minutes past three, when Derbyshire were put out of their misery at last, the West Indians had obtained useful evidence to help them pick their team for next week's Third Test. Fidel Edwards, the diminutive fast bowler with a slinging action, is virtually certain to make a comeback. Having taken 5 for 61 in Derbyshire's first innings, he took 5 for 21 in the hosts' brief and undistinguished second innings.
Edwards, only 22, will remember Derby when other West Indian players have long forgotten it. This was his first 10-wicket haul, and it assuages the misery of being dropped after the Lord's Test. Brian Lara, resting during this game, came on as sub, fielding at first slip, to take a first-hand look at the new rhythm in his stride, and Edwards obliged by taking 3 for 21 in a spell of seven overs, with two lbws and an edge to slip.
Derbyshire were 13 for 5 at the time, and their record low of 68 against the West Indies was in peril, but then Edwards was taken off and Luke Sutton played a captain's innings, batting doggedly until he was last out 75 runs later, though not before Edwards had hit him hard on the helmet. Edwards was allowed back to claim the last two wickets, which he duly did, with another lbw and a splayed off stump. Four of his five wickets had come from fast, straight balls.
Selecting Edwards would mean dropping one of the three pacemen who played at Edgbaston. Since none distinguished himself there, this will be a difficult decision, although favourite to go is Jermaine Lawson, despite seven wickets in Birmingham.
Dave Mohammed, a left-arm spinner from Trinidad brought in as an odd replacement for the injured quick bowler Tino Best, also bowled his way towards the team for Old Trafford with two wickets to follow three in the first innings. Omari Banks, missing with flu, was one of the main victims of the opening Tests, conceding 351 runs for only three wickets. His chances of keeping his place diminished at Derby.
While other teams might wield the scalpel after two very poor Test performances, the West Indian selectors are conservative by nature and limited in the choices available to them. Carlton Baugh, another small young man, took his overnight hundred to 150 not out yesterday morning and ought to be considered in place of the wicketkeeper Ridley Jacobs, although he managed 59 not out himself.
But conservative selectors do not drop veterans like Jacobs until they give them no option. Dwayne Smith might have competed for Dwayne Bravo's place after Ashley Giles dismissed Bravo twice at Edgbaston, but Smith was disappointing with bat and ball here. The smart money here was on another promising youngster, named Sylvester Joseph, who has scored 282 runs in four innings on the tour. But giving him a Test debut would be risky, and the West Indian selectors are not expected to be bold.
Speculation about the West Indian Test line-up drew attention away from Derbyshire's performance. The manner in which two of their top-order batsmen were run out suggested that they did not care too much for a lingering outcome to the game. Dave Houghton, Derbyshire's director of cricket, described his team's performance as "pathetic". As criticism goes, that was mild.Reuse content