Cricket: England v West Indies

Performance of the Day: Adrian Barath

The youngster impressed in his first game at Lord's

Performance of the Day: Adrian Barath

From a numerical and technical point of view the best batting performance of the day belonged to Shivnarine Chanderpaul for his innings of 87 not out. But if the West Indies are to get something out of this series, the 22-year-old Adrian Barath’s cameo of 42 may prove more significant.

The diminutive Barath arrived on these shores with a reputation for playing “a shot a second”, in the phrase of the great Sir Viv Richards. And when Sir Viv suggests you’re too aggressive, you really must be capable of rash strokeplay.

But Barath’s mature innings of 42 did not live up to this billing. With the England seamers swinging the ball all day long, Barath calmly let good ones pass, and drove anything full to the fence.

This was no mean feat. Anderson was a mesmerising sight, looping the ball both ways with barely a discernible change of action. But Barath did not panic. Four times he drove Anderson to the fence. Broad, too, in striving for a full length, kept landing in Barath’s favourite zone and was driven five times for four. Each stroke was full of authority and panache.  

In the end, Barath’s strength became his weakness and he thick-edged an extravagant drive off Broad to Anderson at slip. The ball was parried high, then caught on the rebound.  With more experience, he will build bigger scores, but he showed the self-discipline West Indies’ batsmen need.  

Inevitably, they lost wickets to the new ball. In one masterful over, Anderson bent the ball away four times in a row from the left-handed Kieran Powell, before swinging one back a good foot onto his stumps. Other wickets were thrown away. Bravo was run out by the length of the pitch after Chanderpaul refused to run on Bravo’s call, and Marlon Samuels did what he does far too often – get to 30 in fine style then throw it away driving loosely.

Chanderpaul, meanwhile, looked in one of those moods. Against Anderson, the world’s number three bowler and best swing bowler, he was sublimely unphased by dazzling deliveries which seemed to cry out “wow take a look at this one, it swings both ways”.

Shuffling around in his angular style, Chanderpaul was always in the right position to play Anderson’s boomerangs. Whenever the Lancastrian overpitched, Chanderpaul drove him down the ground, or tickled him down the Lord’s slope. Anderson looked nonplussed that he could be played with such ease.

Meanwhile, Swann, the world’s number four bowler, suffered the indignity of being swept to the boundary three times.

There was only one error of judgement when Chanderpaul shouldered arms to Anderson on 15 and was given out lbw. But on appeal the ball was seen to have been missing the stumps. His other mental lapse  - the run out of Bravo – could be attributed to poor concentration, but it is better to see it as evidence of the extent of Chanderpaul’s self-absorption in his own batting.

Even as Broad wreaked havoc with swing and seam late in the day, Chanderpaul was playing a different game, driving and pulling him wristily for consecutive fours.

From an England point of view, the trouble with Chanderpaul is that when he gets his eye in, it tends to be not for a day, or even a week, but for at least a month. He has had several Bradman-esque runs, such as on the 2007 tour of England, when he averaged 148.66.

His powers of concentration are unsurpassed. He’s one of only six Test players to have gone 1,000 minutes without getting out, and he’s done it four times, whereas no one else has done it more than once. He’s also the only Test batsman to have faced 1,000 consecutive balls without being out.  

England had better hope no other West Indian finds form in this series because Chanderpaul is going to take some shifting. At least, they will be relieved that Chris Gayle is not playing. Gayle has moved close to greatness as a batsman with age. On the same day that the West Indies’ youngsters were battling England’s world-class seamers, Gayle struck 13 sixes in 128 not out for Bangalore in the IPL.

But the West Indies can only pick from the players available and at least Adrian Barath made a promising start to the series.