England were well below their best on the opening day of the international summer, but only Shivnarine Chanderpaul offered genuine resistance and they ended it in the ascendancy.
Today was an odd day. Stuart Broad was well below his best for the majority of it yet ended up with the second best innings figures of his career. England as a whole seemed strangely out of sorts but managed to always maintain a degree of control and picked up late wickets to really swing the day in their favour. It is testament to them that they are able to do that; even though Tim Bresnan and Graeme Swann didn’t offer too much threat they were extremely economical, so even when the West Indies put partnerships together they weren’t able to score quickly enough to really hurt England. Despite their rustiness, there were a couple of occasions where the hosts threatened to set a collapse in motion, and that they didn’t was largely thanks to Chanderpaul. Overnight his average in 2012 stands at 108.25 and, for all their improvement, one shudders to think where the West Indies would be without him. Had he fallen early England would probably have batted at some point on the first day, but he dug in once again and barring one LBW shout from Swann which would have been out had it been reviewed, offered nothing to the bowlers. He must despair of his team mates sometimes; Adrian Barath and Marlon Samuels threw their wicket away by flashing at wide ones they should have had no business with while Darren Sammy and Kemar Roach will probably be disappointed too. He deserves a century tomorrow, but much will depend on debutant Shannon Gabriel’s batting prowess. There were two blights on Chanderpaul’s innings; taking a single from the first ball of the final over of the day to expose Edwards looks foolish now, and as for the other…
Nowadays much pressure is put on the Darren Bravo/Chanderpaul partnership; the top three has been wildly inconsistent and the lower order is just as liable to get blown away. Opposing teams see that pairing as the one to be wary of. With that in mind, chaotic run outs between them are probably best avoided.
100/3 was a reasonably position to be in, particularly having been put in to bat in difficult conditions and with universal opinion set against them making any sort of impact in the series at all. Neither batsman looked in any real danger (apart from an edge straight to second slip, but we’ll, er, gloss over that) and Chanderpaul was nudging the ball about without a care in the world. Then it all went horribly wrong. Bravo called for a single, his partner was ball watching and they ended up two feet apart, staring daggers at each other. Had either one tried to hare back down to the bowler’s end they might have made it, thanks to Matt Prior’s attempt to give the ball a tour of the ground on its way back to Swann. Chanderpaul is very much from the Nasser Hussain school of running; he displayed a turn of pace to grace the 100m final to ensure he wasn’t the man to go. Nevertheless, it was probably the crucial point in the day. Samuels batted reasonably well for his 31 but beyond him there isn’t a great deal of batting in the West Indies ranks.
Assuming England finish the innings off early doors (always a slightly risky assumption) they will expect to bat all day and get themselves ahead if the weather holds off. The tourists’ strength is certainly in their bowling so they should be confident of doing some damage given the conditions, but it is a good pitch and days two and three will probably see it at its best. Despite good resistance on the whole, day one has done little to dispel the feeling that England will win the series comfortably.