England fire blanks in shoot-out for Test

West Indies A 343-2 v England: Harmison and Anderson fail to impress in final game before facing West Indies
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Some pitches are designed to make bowlers doubt their vocation. The surface at Warner Park here yesterday was enough for entire attacks to seek psychological counselling about what they might do with the rest of their lives, apart from bowl ever again. It was lifeless, it was blameless, it was toothless. You name it, it had less of everything. It was baking under a hot sun. England toiled away, but faced with batting that was by turns obdurate, controlled and aggressive, they approached impotence.

By the end of the afternoon, West Indies A were so dominant that it was possible to imagine that all was well with cricket here. This was Caribbean batting of yore, free-flowing, hard-hitting, irrepressible and bringing four runs an over. The Trinidadian pair of Adrian Barath, 18, and Lendl Simmonds, 24, put on 262 for the second wicket in almost 70 overs and if neither was quite faultless they offered nary a chance until the teenager hit a virtual long hop from Kevin Pietersen to point. It was Pietersen's first over – by then his successor as captain, Andrew Strauss, was ready to try anything – and he greeted the wicket with suitable decorum by performing the hippy-hippy-shake on the spot.

West Indies A finished on 343 for 2 and Simmonds had 171, worth a limbo of its own. There are Test places to be had in England's team and the consensus was that Stephen Harmison and Jimmy Anderson were in a kind of bowling shoot-out. But no bowler could be faulted if he thought that if the pitch in Jamaica for the First Test week is like this then the selectors can lump it.

Maybe it was what was required. England needed a workout and the first match against extremely modest opposition was worthless for judging form. Harmison tried to beat life out of the pitch in short spells – he must have occasionally thought of the subcontinental strips which have been equally unforgiving – but flogging dead horses seemed likely to be more profitable. At least he was accurate. For Anderson there was no ordinary swing and worse still there did not seem to be much reverse swing at any stage. He took the only wicket to fall in the first two sessions when Keiran Powell, another 18-year-old, from Nevis, fell into a well-laid trap and pulled to mid-midwicket. From then on until the sun was going down, nothing for England, nothing at all. Occasionally, Harmison found a thick edge but it always went into no man's land. Maybe by the close he had edged it on points. The other seamer, Ryan Sidebottom, whom it is believed is a near-certainty for a place in the Test side, found some mild swing with the newish ball, but it was untroubling. Later, there was only straightness. Sidebottom needs swing to have zing.

In the early part of the day, Graeme Swann was England's most effective bowler. Slow turn was complemented by gentle drift and he made the batsmen think. But as proceedings wore on Swann exercised no authority and when Simmonds drilled him for two huge sixes down the ground he might have been playing Monty Panesar into England's Test side.

In the absence of a psychologist (though not for long, probably), Swann will have to do with help from Mushtaq Ahmed. Such a hit has Mushtaq been that his 10-day stint with the team has been extended by three weeks and it will be no surprise if his contract with England for 100 days of work a year is lengthened. Hugh Morris, the managing director of England cricket, said: "He has had a big impact not only with all the spinners but with the management team. We feel it can only be helpful to keep him here."

Something for which England cannot prepare is the trial referral system which will be used in the Test series. In a slightly amended version from that which has already been used in some series, two referrals per innings (instead of three) will be allowed from either the batsman querying his dismissal or the fielding side's captain querying a verdict. It would not have been needed yesterday.

Selling England: KP tops IPL price list

Kevin Pietersen will be the most expensive Englishman in the auction for the Indian Premier League. The former England captain is valued at a minimum of $1.35m (£1.02m), IPL commissioner Lalit Modi said. The IPL list features 148 players in total, with other England stars involved including Andrew Flintoff (Price: $950,000, or £661,000), Monty Panesar, Steve Harmison, Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Matt Prior and Owais Shah, while veterans Darren Gough and Dominic Cork are also on the list.