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West Indies revived the memories of past in the most brutal fashion……

46 all out in 1994

51 all out in 2009

77 all out in 2019

Over the years, Barbados has not given England anything to cheer for. Even though the Caribbean Kingdom is in ruins these days, England’s misery in Kensington Oval remains the same. In the post-Ambrose-and-Walsh era, either a Jerome Taylor or a Roach would gun down a strong English batting lineup only to revive the great memories of past.

The conversation about West Indies cricket is more about their past glories rather than their present state. The past was a matter of pride and joy not only for the Caribbean cricket fans, but for the neutrals as well. You could not find anyone, who did not love the West Indies team of Clive Lloyd, Sir Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall and Curtly Ambrose. The past calms down the heart, while the present gives heartache. But still, a West Indies cricket fan does not give up dreaming.

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Bridgetown Barbados – a venue, which has witnessed some of the best exhibition of fast bowling from the giants West Indies cricket. The nature of the track suited the pacers and the batting lineup of touring teams used to sit on flaming ruins. But in the course of time, spin has taken over pace in Caribbean islands. According to CricViz, “Spin has certainly played a big role in domestic cricket in the Caribbean in recent years. Since 2015 spinners and quicks average 25 runs per wicket in first-class cricket”. But still, in Barbados, the pacers tend to have the edge over pace as it remains the venue with the highest spin bowling average (41.55) in last 5 years.

No matter how slow-and-low the Barbados deck might be, the pacers would still love running in from the Malcolm Marshall and Joel Garner end and dish out rib-snorting deliveries to the batters. James Anderson and Ben Stokes enjoyed out there, but when Kemar Roach, Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph and Shannon Gabriel started to bowl – it seemed, West Indies brought back the glorious days, when sheer-pace and bounce beat the fury of hell-fire!

Also read: The persistence of Ben Stokes cannot be undermined

Kemar Roach is one hell of an inconsistent pace bowler. He is one of the most naturally talented fast bowlers, who have the ability to bowl at a deceptive pace. Inconsistency and poor fitness always undermined his abilities. And of course, one can consider him quite lucky when he escaped a serious injury following a car accident in 2014, he was able to get a big compensation thanks to the Miami car accident law firms. His pace has dropped since then, but still, on rare occasions, he can be a demon and devour everything, which comes in front of him.

On a bright sunny day at Barbados, England had to face the demonish side of Roach and along with Roach; Holder, Joseph and Gabriel transformed into the same. The ship of Joe Root’s touring party sunk in no time in the Caribbean Sea.

West Indies’ first innings ended below 300 runs and one felt, 289 was not adequate enough to challenge the might of England batting.

Rory Burns and Keaton Jennings started off with composure. Roach and Holder looked solid, but not threatening enough to provide a breakthrough. At the stroke of lunch, Jennings essayed a loose-drive and was caught at gully. The wicket was against the run of play, but England were still not bothered as their batting lineup is good enough to take a healthy lead.

Play resumed after lunch and Roach the demon cut loose.

He switched ends and dragged his length shorter and banged the ball in fast and accurate. As Cricviz said, “His length was shorter than in his first spell – 7.9m on average, compared to 6.1m before lunch, and 39.5% of the balls he bowled were shorter than 8m from the stumps, compared to 0% in his first spell”.

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“Only two balls he bowled in the entire innings would have gone on to hit the stumps. A fact such as that is one that is often used as a stick to beat an opening bowler with; that they should be attacking the stumps more, pitching it up, and making the batsman play. Roach’s second spell was a testament to the fact that hitting the stumps is not necessary if you can bowl with the accuracy, hostility and penetration that the 30-year-old showed today”.

“It was, in fact, when Roach pulled his length back that he was at his most effective. He pitched 20 balls on a good length (6m-8m) during his second spell and picked up three wickets for six runs. When he dragged his length back further, as he did on 19 occasions, England were unable to score a single run and both Moeen Ali and Jos Buttler were dismissed”.

Burns and Jonny Bairstow were flummoxed by the hostility of Roach and chopped onto their stumps. Roach then pitched one a tad full and back-of-a-length, which trapped Stokes lbw and followed it up with a blazing short-ball, which had Moeen Ali all sorts of trouble. Ali tried to half-pull one, but was caught at deep fine-leg – the pace was such that the ball went high up in the air after just a mere touch of the bat. Roach pulled his length back again. A short and sharp delivery outside offstump dismissed Jos Buttler. The demolition act was completed as Roach bagged 5 wickets for 4 runs in 27 runs.

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At the other end, Holder, Gabriel and Joseph went the Roach way. They were in a destructive mood and kept on bowling with a lot of hostility throughout the session. Joe Root was undone by Holder, while Ben Foakes, Sam Curran and Adil Rashid were outclassed by Joseph and Gabriel.

Especially Holder proved that he is not just a traditional line-and-length bowler, but can be skillful when the situation demands. On Day 2, he moved the ball laterally more often and keeps the batsmen quiet by bowling on a traditional length and suddenly surprise them by keeping it up a tad fuller. Accuracy is Holder’s strength while the sudden switch from good length to full is his wicket-taking funda.

England were bowled out for 77 runs in just 30 overs.

The Barmy Army went silent. The English experts could not believe what just happened, while the West Indian fans felt, they were in dreamy land.  It was a fair old whiff of nostalgia.

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