West Indies fail to learn their lesson

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The Independent Online
TONY COZIER

It was not Dominic Cork's sensational first over which defeated the West Indies. They were the body blows that led to the knock-out, but they were on the ropes by the end of the first day.

They have been consistently betrayed by their batting and, Brian Lara notably excepted, were again here. Even with players with impressive records like Jimmy Adams and Richie Richardson, and of course Lara, they have now gone eight Tests - four against Australia and now these four - without passing 350.

In the past, they would depend on their fast bowling to get them out of the hole their batsmen dug for them, but, on pitches as good as this, it is not always possible. The pattern here followed almost exactly that at Sabina Park in the final Test against Australia in late April.

With the advantage of batting first in similarly favourable conditions they could only raise 265 and their bowlers proceeded to adopt the tactics that proved futile once again. They pounded the ball into a reliable surface, the Waugh twins added 231 and Australia amassed 531. The West Indies were beaten by an innings within four days.

That should have been a salutary lesson but the message has not sunk in. Perhaps the belated encouragement of a few England second-innings wickets and the merest sniff of victory when Ian Bishop and Kenny Benjamin swung the ball at a full length might encourage a change in strategy.

It appears now that the West Indies are at their best only when their fast bowlers can gain something from the pitch. Their solitary victory over Australia in the Caribbean was on a well-grassed flier in Trinidad when they won by nine wickets within three days. Edgbaston was almost a replay.

When things are more even it requires more subtlety and, more importantly, more runs from the batsmen.

Both against Australia and here, individuals have put together scores here and there but they have not done it together. Perhaps Lara's return to his best will prove a stimulus but Richardson must be a worried man both on account of his team's faltering performances and his own spasmodic form.

It is difficult to see how changes can make any appreciable difference to the strength of the team. It may be that Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the 21-year-old left hander, would add solidity to the unreliable middle order. Certainly he would not wantonly waste his wicket as has been the case with so many others so many times.

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