View from the Pavilion End: Day One, Trent Bridge
Darren Sammy showed the value of runs from Number Eight
“Batters should get the runs: bowlers should get the wickets.” So say those who advocate a policy of picking the best six batsmen, the best keeper and the four best bowlers available – but cricket, as so often, does not reduce to soundbites.
It was Duncan Fletcher who demanded runs down the order from an England team that had been happy to bat Andrew Caddick at Number Eight. Fletcher favoured Ashley Giles in that slot – and few would claim that he was one of the best four bowlers in the country. But the Warwickshire man was an authentic Number Eight – and a rare English example. On Day One, West Indies' Number Eight, captain Darren Sammy, played the role perfectly.
Firstly, he got runs when they mattered. Sammy – like all men in his slot in the order – is not a consistent run-scorer (if he were, he'd be at Six), but there are times when runs are really needed, and there are few times more needy than 136-6 when already one-down in a three Test series. Sammy saw that and delivered.
Secondly, he stayed with the established batsman. Seventh wicket stands invariably include a man selected for his batting (even the keepers these days), so it's crucial that the best batsman amongst those selected for their bowling stays with his partner and allows him to continue to play naturally, without the need to farm the strike or change gear into Twenty20 mode. Sammy did that - so Marlon Samuels simply batted at his own pace, progressing to a rare century.
Thirdly, a Number Eight has to get under the skin of bowlers who, not unreasonably, are looking forward to a rub down and a few hours with the Racing Post. Attack leader Jimmy Anderson betrayed his sense of frustration with a spat or two – and when a bowler is thinking about the batsman and not the ball he's bowling, the batsman has won a moral victory.
It has been said by plenty that Darren Sammy is in the side primarily as a captain, with neither of his principal skills quite up to the mark. If he can deliver the curious combination of skills, attitude and luck that a Number Eight needs, he'll justify his place for more than just his excellent leadership. Few would begrudge him that.