After an awesome start in their first match of the 2019 Cricket World Cup (CWC) against Pakistan at Trent Bridge on May 31, West Indies (WI) stumbled in their second game against the defending champions Australia at the same venue, exactly one week later on June 6.
Their game last Monday against South Africa was abandoned because of rain.
Pakistan, pace and pitch
In the first game Pakistan was taken by surprise with the pace of the Jamaican Oshane Thomas, someone new to them and who is decidedly quick, plus the three very fast overs delivered by Andre Russell, a cricketer of whom they are well aware but not his bowling at that speed.
However, the actual significant feature of the contest was the pitch. This caught both sides by surprise. No one expected that kind of pace and bounce on an English wicket, certainly not before summer would have reined in fully, in July and August.
The pitch showed a fine covering of grass which always helps; yet it is not always a sign of pace and bounce as this comes from the hardness of the surface. A combination of well-mown grass and a flint hard soil would produce fireworks for those who have the firepower to use it. On the day the WI did!
It was disappointing to read and listen to so many commentators when referring to the WI win, reporting on the pace of the bowlers, of how quick they were, but never referring to the pitch.
A close examination of the bowling analysis and using their knowledge of the Caribbean bowlers should have revealed to them that the nature of the wicket was the turning point. Russell’s experience was vital, then Thomas’ speed shocked and scared the Pakistani batsmen into submission. The surprise factor did it and they never recovered! The pitch had a steep bounce something I never witnessed in England before.
The WI coaches and captain praised the batting but for me it was not convincing. Chris Gayle made 50 and although he struck a couple powerful sixes, to me it was not vintage Gayle, too many coming off the edges, hurtling through slip and flying high over the keeper’s head. All the batsmen struggled and if WI batted first the whole game would have been different.
Bowling order change against Aussies
As they moved on to the Aussies, brimful of confidence and feeling very good about themselves, as they should, Holder won the toss and as in the previous game stuck the opposition in to face the music of his quick men.
However, instead of using the same bowling order he used so successfully on Pakistan, where he would have had the opposition guessing as to when he would introduce his young titan Thomas, he bowled him the first over. It makes a big difference, believe me!
The think tank of the team did not recognise the fact that Thomas is young, inexperienced though speedy. The opposition would have noticed what he did in the first game and would have been apprehensive. Also, the player himself is new to this attention of the grandeur and the splendour of being on stage in something as vast and magnificent as the CWC.
The brand-new ball and the freshness of the pitch would have given the bowlers of lesser pace like Jason Holder or Russell an advantage. Then, as in the first game, he could have let loose Thomas on the unsuspecting middle order. By this time the young man would have breathed in the atmosphere thus be comfortable in the environment.
This is different to playing a five-match series against the same opponent or a Test match where there is recovery time. Newcomers have to be gradually nurtured into the side especially in a CWC occasion, the biggest of them all that offers no respite!
I thought it was such a great idea where the skipper introduced Thomas in the first game as the third change. Yet, against the men from Down Under the youngster, still wet behind the ears, delivered five wides in his first over, which affected his consistency in his spell.
Alex Carey and Nathan Coulter-Nile, the Aussie batsmen, batted professionally and allowed their team to recover after being 38 for 4 then 79 for 5. It shows confident batsmanship to rebuild an innings after that collapse. Steve Smith was superb.
Overall, I believe the WI did not have the will to win; that feeling the team ought to have, to play to win at all times. They have been losing so much in the past years that the belief that they could beat Australia was not there.
WI batsmen showed some class. Nicholas Pooran was batting beautifully when he was beaten by the googly from Adam Zampa. Shimron Hetmyer ran himself out foolishly, plus the unthinking non-professional dismissals of Carlos Brathwaite and Russell proved we were not mentally attuned to beating a cricket powerhouse.