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Oh, for a spin bowler!
Thursday 15, April-2004
AS Brian Lara watched on through the final day of the series, first from the team room with his legs still cramping from the effects of his 13-hour batting marathon, later from mid-off and mid-on,he would have ruedthe absence of aworthy spinner on his bowling staff.
The West Indies captain has repeatedly emphasised his preference for a balanced attack. It has been stymied for two valid, if frustrating, reasons.
One is the selectors’ continuing mindset for pace and pure pace, a hangover from the days when as many as half-a-dozen genuinely fast and quality bowlers were available at any one time.
The other is the absence, more than simply coincidental, of spin bowlers of Test potential.
The last given a reasonable run was Didnath Ramnarine, an authentic leg-spinnerwho had 25 wickets in12 Tests between 1998and 2001.
Frustrated by his lack of opportunity, he retired last year, aged 28, to concentrate on his role as head of the Players’ Association.
The latest is Dave Mohammed, the left-arm chinaman and googly specialist, but he has been overlooked since his solitary Test againstSouth Africa in CapeTown last January.
He would have been helpful yesterday as Ryan Hinds, Ramnaresh Sarwan and Ricardo Powell tried to work their way through the England order, but there are presently no other realistic options in domestic cricket.
As Michael Vaughan and his mates began to follow Lara’s lead and appreciate the bounty offered by the placid pitch, the West Indies attack cried out for someone practised in the art of flight, turn, bounceand control.
Their fast bowlers had done as well as, perhaps even better than, was to be expected in keeping England down to a modest first innings total. The effort proved far more difficult the second time round as Vaughan and Marcus Trescothick settled in to their opening partnership of 182 and Mark Butcher andNasser Hussain helped themselves tohalf-centuries.
Once again, Pedro Collins, with his left-arm reverse swing, seemedthe likeliest to separate them and was unluckynot to prompt Aleem Dar, the young Pakistani umpire, into an lbwruling against Vaughan when the Englandcaptain was 80.
But he was clearly handicapped by histender back. He, Fidel Edwards, Corey Collymore and Tino Best maintained the full length and direct line such conditions demanded but theyfound the surface as unsympathetic as England’s had done.
Not that itdeterred Best.
He rushed in to bowl and sprinted around the boundary, firing his returns like bullets, with an attitude that refusedto accept victory wasout of reach.
What a boon his infectious enthusiasm has been to the team.
Sarwan, leading the West Indies in Lara’s early absence, soon identified the need for some variety and turned to Hinds, Gayle and himself. But they are occasional trundlers whose value is in defensive control, not wicket-taking on such featherbeds.
He delayed summoning the ball for eight overs and had success himself when he tried his leg-spin, turning one across Vaughan from the rough outside leg-stump that brushed the gloveon its way through to Ridley Jacobs.
Hinds chipped in with a couple of wickets after tea and Sarwan snared Andy Flintoff for the second time in the series with a lobbed full toss. But, by then, it was too late.
Sarwan’s leg-spin was more than useful as a teenager but, as so many other batsmen have done, he has ignored it in adulthood.
Like Gayle and Hinds, he offers an alternative when the total is mounting and something differentis required.
As yesterday, he has had a few useful Test wickets – HerschelleGibbs and Gary Kirsten twice in South Africa, Andrew Flintoff twice here. But he is nothe specialist Lara seeks.
Until one comesalong who is good enough, the West Indies willhave to make do with Sarwan, Hinds, Gayleand other part-timers.
Compliments of the Nation News
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