Despite not knowing quite when the captain will pitch up and a crushing 10-wicket defeat at the hands of the England Lions yesterday, West Indies refuse to panic in public. After all, the first Test against England is still 72 hours or so away.
Take tour manager Omar Khan, for example. One might have expected a flicker of concern on his face yesterday when asked for an update on Chris Gayle's estimated time of arrival in this country following a lucrative spell of Indian Premier League duty in South Africa. Not a bit of it. Instead, he composed a statement which said that Gayle would be here today or tomorrow and, whichever it is, that will be just fine.
Basically, so long as Gayle arrives in time for the toss at Lord's on Wednesday morning all should be well. And, given the skipper's laid back nature, why not? But who walks out with him when West Indies bat, and what sort of damage has already been done to the team's confidence after another capitulation, are different matters. Dismissed for 146 in Essex last weekend, 203 here in their first innings and then 179 yesterday, the tourists are down if not out.
The problems start at the very top of the order where Devon Smith has been given every opportunity to prove himself and blown most of them. Yesterday, as England Lions set about engineering a victory chance, the little left-hander failed again, bowled off an inside edge by Sajid Mahmood after adding only a single to his eight-run first innings flop.
Despite managing only one half-century is six innings against England in the Caribbean this year, Smith held his place for the whole series. And, of his potential rivals, Dale Richards was left out of this match after failing against Leicestershire and Essex while Lendl Simmons is regarded as a middle order batsman, even though he has opened with some success here.
It would be wrong to write off West Indies, though, England probably made exactly that mistake a couple of months ago. Strike bowler Fidel Edwards is definitely due in from South Africa today to form a dangerous partnership with Jerome Taylor and, when it comes to batting, they possess several bankers. Not yesterday, though, with even Shiv Chanderpaul unable to halt the clatter of wickets for too long.
Chanderpaul walked to the middle with West Indies tottering again on 29 for three in their second innings, still 79 runs behind and with the Lions already sensing a tasty kill. As well as losing Smith, the visitors had also seen Ramnaresh Sarwan, strangled down the leg side, and Denesh Ramdin, undone by extra bounce, sent packing by bowler of the match, Chris Woakes. But the situation was right up Chanderpaul's street, and he made something of it until pinned lbw by Adil Rashid's googly.
Rashid had just ended Simmons' stay through another lbw verdict, then he sent back Brendan Nash via a miscued cut which looped gently to slip. Now the collapse was under way, and Liam Plunkett stepped forward to finish off the visitors in rapid fashion with four wickets in three overs, unsettling the tail with pace and bounce.
That left only 72 needed for victory which they achieved without losing a wicket.Reuse content