Lapses continue to plague tourists

The burden with which the West Indies immediately saddled themselves through their atrocious cricket on the first day, finally became too heavy to bear yesterday.

The burden with which the West Indies immediately saddled themselves through their atrocious cricket on the first day, finally became too heavy to bear yesterday.

They had battled diligently for seven consecutive sessions to retrieve an all but hopeless cause, but knew from recent experience the consequences of one bad day, indeed a few bad hours, against stronger, more confident teams. The situations in Tests against South Africa in Johannesburg last December, and Australia in Port-of-Spain, in 2003, were almost identical.

While England amassed 391 for 2 on the first day here, South Africa ended the opening day 369 for 3 and Australia 391 for 3. England were all out for 568, South Africa for 561 and Australia closed at 576 for 4. In each case, it left the West Indies with a struggle for survival, but they made a fair fist of it with respective first innings totals of 410, 408 and 416.

In normal circumstances, they would have been enough to guarantee a competitive contest. But their bowlers and fielders leaked runs so rapidly at the start their opponents had plenty of time to finish them off - as both South Africa and Australia did midway through the final day and England are poised to do sometime this afternoon. It is not an entirely foregone conclusion for Brian Lara and Shivnarine Chanderpaul are the two West Indian batsmen most likely to hold out.

The gathering gloom over Lord's that ended play half-an- hour early was a timely intervention, even if the time is to be made up today if necessary. The visitors resume this morning fully conscious of the contrasting impacts on team spirit of a battling draw or a heavy and early defeat.

They can, at least, take heart from the contributions of the youngest and newest members of the team. Dwayne Bravo, the 20-year-old Trinidadian on his debut, has batted and bowled with the maturity of a seasoned campaigner. Omari Banks, 22, erased from memory an opening day when even his proud fellow Anguillans would have cringed at his wayward bowling, playing an important innings of 45 and showing his true colours with the ball.

His unbroken spell of 16 overs that occupied the Nursery End throughout the first session yesterday, was further evidence of his continuing improvement. He may never produce the vicious off-spins and clever variations of Lance Gibbs, but the first West Indian to 300 Test wickets had reason to be pleased as he watched.

There was also noticeable progress from Fidel Edwards. The fast bowler with the slinging action was clearly underprepared for the Test. He had broken down in the final match against Bangladesh in Jamaica in early June and, as he recuperated, had not even played club cricket in Barbados before joining this tour.

Unsurprisingly, he was all over the place on the opening day when his 21 overs for no wickets cost 96 runs. In spite of the slowness of the pitch, he had found his requisite line and length by yesterday. He should get better in the second Test at Edgbaston.

The individual concern, above all others, is for Ramnaresh Sarwan who had a miserable match. Falling across the crease, he was lbw in both innings, just as he was three times in the corresponding series in the Caribbean. In addition, he lacked his usual zest in the field, resorting to tossing the ball from the boundary underarm, and missing a dolly-catch while England were piling on the pressure yesterday.

As vice-captain, he carries the responsibility of leadership. It was missing at Lord's.

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