Holder’s ban just, but only just

It is possible to be delighted in Jason Holder’s success with bat, ball, and captaincy, and to maintain that his suspension for the third and final Test at St. Lucia was correct.

As has been observed elsewhere, slowing the game down yields a tactical advantage: the less a bowler has to bowl each day, the more energy he conserves. West Indies thus gained a small but not entirely inconsequential unfair advantage in bowling at a slow rate.

This is not, of course, to claim that England’s loss was due to the the slow over rate; they were simply thoroughly outplayed by a superior West Indies team. Furthermore, should any English supporters be about to climb on to the moral high ground, it should also be noted in passing that Len Hutton cottoned on to the potential of the tactic for the 1954-1955 Ashes.

Nevertheless, the idea that England’s batsmen were equally culpable for the early finish misses the point. The shortchanging of spectators from slow over rates is not caused by an early conclusion to the match, but by providing less play for your pound/dollar/rupee. Spectators are not financially robbed by games that finish early: refunds are typically issued for missing days of play.

One wonders if the outcry would have been so vocal if the offender was not so eminently likeable a character. Had David Warner been in charge and suspended for such an offence, it seems unlikely that he would have garnered as much sympathy as Holder did.

What certainly is unsatisfactory, however, is the current system of post-game penalties. Several years ago on ESPNcricinfo I called for fielders to be suspended during games. Russell Degnan’s analysis of the problem merits careful reading; he calls for a delivery clock, similar to that used in tennis. Either way, to justly redress the in-game advantage unfairly gained, an in-game penalty is required, whether that be penalty runs, fielder suspension, or some other means.

Post-game fines and suspensions do not remediate, they punish; for the sake of spectators and the game itself, in-game penalties should be used wherever possible. The redrafted Law 42, indeed, gives umpires more leeway in this regard. Had such an in-game penalty been applied in this instance, the Second Test would have been marginally more balanced, spectators could have witnessed Holder in action in the Third Test, and less time would have been wasted both on the field and in writing about the disappointing outcome.

Report: West Indians recall that winning feeling

West Indians (335-4, 50.0) beat Middlesex CCC (107-9 all out, 31.0) by 228 runs

Wednesday 15th June 2012
By Liam Cromar at Lord’s

Gayle may grab the headlines, but it was Dwayne Smith and Darren Bravo who made the strongest cases for selection, as the touring West Indians crushed an inexperienced Middlesex side by upwards of 200 runs. Of late, the sensation of completely dominating a match has been rare for this side, but today everything clicked into place. Even the English weather smiled upon the West Indians.

It’s probably fair to say that the most anticipated innings of the day was Chris Gayle’s first back in West Indian colours. He quickly showed himself to be in fine form, reserving especial punishment for Murtagh, who toiled away from the Media Centre End, only to watch Gayle dispatching him for leg-side boundaries with typical lazy disdain. For all the early fireworks, though, he did not last as long as would have been hoped, holing out to deep mid-wicket for a relatively modest 38. Perhaps the IPL dial needs to yet be turned down a notch or two.


The real work of the innings, therefore, fell upon nos. 3 and 4, Darren Bravo and Dwayne Smith. With the pitch appearing totally innocuous, batting was simply a matter of not getting too excited and making silly errors. Smith and Bravo hardly offered a single chance in their century stand. As the innings progressed into early afternoon, the foot was increasingly pressed down on the accelerator, as the pair, already progressing at a healthy 4- or 5- an over, launched the West Indians towards a mammoth total. Smith, when only four from a century, finally made an error, driving straight at mid-on; he nonetheless received a standing ovation from the Pavilion. Pollard, in at 5, made 18 quickly, but didn’t last long, leaving the two Bravos to complete the final touches. Not that they were delicate touches: Dwayne Bravo raced to 40*, while Darren Bravo (112*) reached his century and then completed the innings with a flurry of sixes, including one off the last ball, leading his team to an imposing 335-4.

Middlesex’s reply, by contrast, started badly and got worse. Stumbling to 15-2 in 7 overs, they continued to lose wickets, and at 38-4, were already out of it. Davey (24*), together with Smith (16), put up a little resistance, avoiding Middlesex the ignominy of a double-figure total, but Smith fell in Gayle’s first over. Having somehow got away with apparently reverse-sweeping Gayle straight to slip – Sammy injected some humour into the dispute by signalling for a TV replay – Gayle sent the next ball through his defences, bowling him to provide a certain moral justice. Gayle also went on to remove the new batsman in the same over, showing rare animation in his celebrations. The double strike left Gayle with impressive bowling figures on his return – a double-wicket maiden.

To be fair to Middlesex, their side was certainly not a first-string XI, having chosen to field several youngsters in preparation for the T20 tournament, and not having their England stars Morgan and Finn available for selection. They would, nonetheless, have hoped to resist better; Stirling, for instance, after his CB40 122-ball 119 on Sunday, would have hoped for better than 1, although his bowling figures were exemplary (7-0-26-1). Murtagh, also, after his call-up to the Ireland squad, would not have been happy with his ten expensive overs (10-0-75-1). The worst moment, was, sadly, when their young bowler Robbie Williams dived onto his shoulder for a catch and had to be helped off the field, suffering a broken collarbone. Middlesex will hope he is able to recover quickly from his unfortunate injury.

A group of West Indian children in the Compton Stand, having been chanting “Bra-vo” during the Bravo-Bravo partnership, apparently heard my companion’s muttered injunction to ‘at least be specific’, and switched to a chant of “D, M, Bra-vo”. Sterner tests will be ahead, but they, the Bravos, the rest of the West Indian supporters, and the West Indian team themselves, will take heart from this fine performance.

Decision

– a pleasant day out, but nothing of a contest.