Tests are best!

Dear reader…

Internet connectivity here is spasmodic to say the least so rather than try a daily blog for this game, these will be more infrequent. The first test in the WI for the Botham-Richards trophy is being held at Sir Viv’s ground in Antigua. He never played here as the ground was developed to replace his fortress of the Recreation Ground in downtown St John’s. This newer stadium built for the 2007 World Cup (with borrowed money from the Far East) is in the middle of nowhere. The outskirts of St John’s can be seen in the middle distance but access for locals is limited

As a result the locals tend not to attend, adding another nail on the coffin that is test cricket. Thankfully with England the visitors, the Brits are here on their thousands! The atmosphere, whilst Caribbean in nature and weather, is more akin to a home England test.

In the current ‘tradition’ of England’s performances, lunch on the first day sees a slow yet patient progress to 57/4. Excellent controlling WI fast bowling, most chances being taken, lack of or poor English footwork and lack of match practice suggest the same old, same old story developing.

By tea some order had been restored by Stokes, Bairstow 35no and Foakes 21no – the latter on his return to the Test side, making an entrance at 115/5 (reminiscent of Galle in 2018 when he made a century !). Score at tea 145/5…only one wicket lost during that session. WI looked to be struggling to control the match with an ageing ball. Thanks to the control by Holder in both sessions, they’re hanging in there!

Close day 1 – England 268/6 and Bairstow goes to another century. Well crafted, with some fine drives and cuts, he’s come good as an excellent middle order bat. Please England management leave him be there – stop mucking about! What is clear is the passion and commitment he has…and shows in true Collingwood style! Perhaps the new management regime is starting to work wonders?

In terms of useless information, four overs were lost today due to slow rates – no real reason, just ‘couldn’t be bothered’ – and by both teams! And Bairstow has had three consecutive 50+ partnerships with Stokes, Foakes and Woakes! Now when did a bat have that run of partnerships with partners with rhyming surnames? I know…I need to get out more!

Day 2 starts with another first! Security at cricket grounds tends to be ‘variable’ as dear reader you will know! Today the only security challenge is ‘do you have any bottles of water’ If so, please take off the labels other than the sponsors! Interestingly, the sponsors only promote the drinks break but little else!

In the middle England progress to 311ao as expected with JonnyB last out for 140. A fine knock all round and the potential difference between the sides. WIndies progress without problems to 44/0 at lunch at a fast rate; let’s see how the new ball works its magic this afternoon!

The day has been punctuated by the odd sharp shower one of which prompts an early tea with WIndies on 127/4 – Brathwaite scored a classy half century but with little other support. Some of the field placings have been unusual and thought provoking, the bowling in the main ‘ok’ and pulled back the rate from over 4 to just over 3.5.

At one stage it seemed that the ‘Broaderson can do no wrong’ brigades would be in the ascendant but perseverance pays. An interesting observation is that Stokes seems more in control in the field than Root!

Watching tests in various parts of the world is an experience not to be missed and SO different from the traditions in England – dancers on the boundary, four poster bed and sun loungers, goats and cattle grazing outside the ground, the odd Martian and devil – each ready to cause apoplexy in Long Rooms! But such fun!

By the close, more showers mean the ground staff have developed sprinting skills but we only lose six overs of the allocation. WIndies reach 202/4 with Bonner (#89) on 34 and Holder (#98) on 43 – palindromic numbers (or whatever the word is!) abound.

All to play for still!

I end with a montage of a few photos to give a flavour so far!

Hero’s return!
Almost a guard of honour?
Congratulations – well played
Did it?
Mark Wood nearly puts his body on the line
Not something you’d see every day at Lord’s! But then some people could think those in charge have been abducted by aliens?