Windies crumble to lethal Lions
West Indies mustered only 147 all out, a hint of the difficulties they can expect in next week’s first Investec Test, as England Lions prospered in bowlers’ conditions at Wantage Road.
In the circumstances of this damp and cloudy early summer, against a swinging and seaming ball after a start delayed by overnight rain, the tourists might easily have fared much worse.
But they then did not make best use of the new ball when their own turn came - and as bad light brought an early close with the Lions reply on 40 for one, the balance of this match favoured the hosts after day one of four.
West Indies had Darren Bravo, who struck a classy 51, to thank for avoiding a lower score in their first full innings on tour, after rain wiped out all but 34 overs against Sussex at Hove.
For the Lions, Stuart Meaker took three wickets in 15 balls to limit a recovery which centred on Bravo and Marlon Samuels’ fifth-wicket stand of 75.
Before then Jack Brooks, who returned 3-23 on his home ground, took two of four wickets as a vulnerable top order failed to negotiate the new ball after Lions captain James Taylor had put the Windies in.
The tourists, up to their full complement at last after Narsingh Deonarine reportedly flew in from Jamaica this morning following his visa complications, surprisingly chose to rest captain Darren Sammy.
In his absence from this match, the Windies’ last before they head to Lord’s, the team were led by Kirk Edwards. However, the number three could not mark his elevation with any runs, his the third of three wickets to fall for only four runs as England found conspicuous sideways movement.
Adrian Barath was their first victim, fencing Brooks to third slip.
Jade Dernbach then produced an unplayable delivery which shaped to swing into the left-handed Kieran Powell before holding its line for the edge behind.
Edwards fell to another good one from Brooks, well-held high to his left by Ian Bell at second slip, bringing Bravo and Shivnarine Chanderpaul together at 16 for three.
The flip-side to the help available for the Lions’ seamers was that it was so exaggerated as to be difficult to control at times, and change bowlers Meaker and Matt Coles did not always get it right.
But Chanderpaul presented his wicket with a simple catch into the leg-side shortly before lunch, failing to bail out of an intended pull quickly enough to a rare short ball from Coles.
Bravo dug in to close out the session, then unfurled some trademark off-side shots - driving on the up and forcing off the back foot - as the afternoon exchanges went the Windies’ way.
Yet no sooner had he completed his 86-ball 50 with a cover-drive off Meaker for his ninth four than the same bowler got his revenge, and opened his account.
Bravo mis-pulled, not quite as haplessly as Chanderpaul before him, but badly enough to fall to another simple catch at mid-on.
Meaker could have had two in two, but new batsman Denesh Ramdin edged through Nick Compton’s fingertips at third slip, to get off the mark.
An over later, Meaker instead had Samuels edging behind on the back foot, to a useful delivery he might nonetheless have been able to leave alone, and followed up by bowling Shane Shillingford on the defence.
Ramdin soon drove Coles into the hands of gully, and the Lions wasted little time after tea in wrapping up the innings with the last two wickets.
The worth of West Indies total was partially informed by the difficulties soon encountered too by their opponents.
Joe Root was lbw to a shooter from Fidel Edwards, but his opening partner Michael Carberry had already escaped against the same bowler, when he edged on to his stumps only to hear a third successive no-ball call in the first over of the innings.
Carberry survived too when Powell could not hang on to a very tough catch, diving to his right at gully.
There was a little fortune therefore, for both Carberry and number three Compton - who will nonetheless have to battle for their runs if the Windies pace bowlers start to get it right and the cloud cover remains tomorrow.