Tony Cozier: Bravo for fledgling bowlers as seniors fall short again

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The Independent Online

One of the principal problems that the West Indies' captains - Brian Lara now, Carl Hooper before him - have had to deal with since the exit of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh was again starkly evident yesterday.

As was the case at Lord's and at other unforgiving Test venues in Sri Lanka, Sharjah, South Africa and the Caribbean over the past couple of years, the bowlers allowed England's batsmen to spring out of the blocks faster than Maurice Greene. By lunch, England had sprinted to 105 for 1 off 27 overs and had already rattled up 17 boundaries.

Once more, the West Indies were immediately left with a sizeable leeway to make up. It was a virtual repetition of Lord's, where they were 91 for 1 off 24 overs, the precursor for a close-of-play score of 398 for 2. The signs were similarly ominous.

Lara has repeatedly referred to the inexperience of the majority of those who comprise his attack. All four of his main bowlers at Lord's were appearing in a Test in England for the first time. Tino Best, Fidel Edwards and Omari Banks are all 22 and have all played fewer than 10 Tests.

Yesterday, there could be no excuses. Those who were most culpable in offering a generous helping of loose stuff - which was duly punished by Marcus Trescothick, Andrew Strauss and Robert Key - were Pedro Collins and Corey Collymore, both of whom have been internationals for more than four years.

Collins came into his 25th Test with 81 wickets. He had led the attack capably at Lord's, claiming seven wickets in England's two innings. Collymore is playing in his 12th Test match. These were the men upon whom Lara was most relying. The support would have to come from Jermaine Lawson, Dwayne Bravo and Banks.

Lawson was brought into the team in place of Edwards, for only his second Test in the 18 months since he was ordered by the International Cricket Council to have remedial work carried out on his dubious bowling action. Bravo, the bustling medium-pacer, was in his second Test match, the off-spinner Banks in his eighth.

Yet by lunch, Collins had been taken for seven fours in yielding 37 from seven overs and Collymore six fours from nine overs that cost 39. It meant that Lara was obliged to resort to damage limitation with the match only a couple of hours old.

He was thankful for the response he received from Lawson, Banks and especially Bravo. In the second session, they restrained England to 99 from 28 overs for the wickets of Key and Michael Vaughan, both of whom amassed over 200 runs at Lord's. There was some consolation for Collins with the wicket of Key. Bravo's removal of Vaughan, to a sharp, if juggled, return catch, was reward for persistence.

It was after tea that the 20-year-old Trinidadian emphasised what a vital addition he has been to the West Indies team. It had been revealed at Lord's where he followed his three first-innings wickets with a mature 45 with the bat.

In the final session, Lara devised a plan to frustrate Trescothick and Andrew Flintoff by bowling wide of off-stump, in the latter's case to eight men on the off side, one on the leg. Bravo carried out the scheme like a veteran against England's two most destructive batsmen, conceding only 13 in seven overs and adding the wicket of Trescothick to a frustrated, top-edged cut.

It is the kind of service that Lara, and Hooper, have time and again sought from more senior bowlers only to have been let down, as they were yesterday.