WICKET! West Indies 10-2 (Brathwaite c Stokes b Anderson 8)
Lovely stuff from James Anderson. Brathwaite edges a good delivery to second slip, where Ben Stokes takes a simple catch at the second attempt. The line and length were immaculate, forcing Brathwaite to play, and there was just enough seam movement to take the edge.
2nd over: West Indies 10-1 (Brathwaite 8, Hope 0) Stuart Broad shares the new ball. I think that’s the right decision, although Root must have been tempted to give it to Mark Wood, move himself to mid-off and get out a bucket of popcorn.
The new ball is doing all sorts off this capricious pitch. Hope survives an appeal for a catch at short leg and then misses a big drive at a ball that snaps back through the gate and just misses the off stump.
“Old Trafford 1976 – I remember watching the infamous evening session with my father, who was muttering stuff like, ‘No fool like an old fool’ at Brian Close but then started saying things like, ‘It’s gone too far now’,” says Gary Naylor “The colour television was still a novelty in the house and I could barely see the ball, but it didn’t matter. At 13 years of age, I knew that what I was witnessing was something elemental, the same raw stuff that would see a classroom of kids press their noses to the windows as lightning bursts in the sky. But it was also beautiful – a perfect example of how a body can move through space and, thereby, transform both itself and its environment. It was a portal to a world of sporting conflicts, but also to a world of aesthetic pleasure and it came just before sex would drown such thoughts away for a decade or two. Looking back, I think it changed my life.”
Have you thought about writing for a living, Gary?
1st over: West Indies 7-1 (Brathwaite 5, Hope 0) That was so good from Moeen, only one rung down from Ben Stokes’s once-in-a-lifetime grab to dismiss Adam Voges in 2015. Anderson almost struck with the first ball of the innings, incidentally, when Brathwaite edged at catchable height between third slip and gully.
Here’s Bill Hargreaves. “I’d probably say the best pace bowling, in terms of making an art of the thing, that I’ve seen would have been either Michael Holding, whose approach always seemed poetry in motion, or Malcolm Marshall, against whom I would have backed away and suggested he have a free shy at the wicket.”
I think Wasim Akram is the greatest fast-bowling artist I’ve seen, though Malcolm Marshall was slightly past his best when I discovered this things of ours.
WICKET! West Indies 5-1 (Campbell c Ali b Anderson 0)
Joel Campbell falls for a golden duck! He edged a drive at a James Anderson outswinger towards gully, where Moeen Ali stretched high to his right to take a blinding one-handed catch.
“I would like to comment on Root’s stunning maturity when it came to handling a possibly homophobic slur in the heat of the moment,” says OB Jato. “Root’s reply was world-class and act of solidarity for an under-represented community in sports. Hopefully he sets an example for future generations about tolerance, and handling yourself with grace in such situations. Top bloke!”
Yes, that was ever so impressive. It would have been so easy to say nothing, or to smile nervously, or to freeze for a few seconds until the moment had passed. One thing I found interesting is that he seemed conscious that the stump-mic was on, not that this in any way detracts from a note-perfect response.
Ben Stokes finished on 48 not out, since you asked.
WICKET! England 361-5 declared (Root c Hetmyer b Gabriel 122)
Root falls for 122, clunking a low full toss to short midwicket. He’s mildly annoyed as he walks off, though he shouldn’t be so hard on himself. That was an impressively resilient innings which partially redeems a miserable series, and England have a lead of about 800.
Root has decided that’s more than enough. He has declared, and West Indies will return in 10 minutes to chase a nominal target of 485.
105th over: England 360-4 (Root 122, Stokes 47) Stokes has a golf swing at Alzarri Joseph’s first ball, launching it over midwicket for four. It’s really good to see Stokes playing with his old aggression. I know this innings ia bit of a freebie but he was also much more positive in the first innings.
“England tour to the West Indies, 1980-81: THAT over from Michael Holding to Geoff Boycott,” says Ade Couper. “Probably the best over ever bowled?”
It’s a yes from me. You can barely see the ball on the YouTube clip, and not only because the picture quality is so bad.
104thover: England 351-4 (Root 119, Stokes 40) Root misses a premeditated scoop off Gabriel, who is precisely 0.00 per cent amused, and then laces a classical cover drive for four. For the first time in a while, England’s batsmen are having a bit of fun.
“I had the privilege or honour to film and direct the great Shoaib for a Channel 4 trailer,” says James Quigley. “He promised me 20 deliveries at full speed. And he delivered! I had a 6x6ft bulletproof glass erected behind the stumps as I was using a fisheye lens on the camera, 12mm. When Shoaib hit the stumps that I had doctored with polyfilla they exploded and as the ball hit the glass everybody dived for cover and we all jumped out of our skins. It was unreal.
“He then decided to go over our heads. The ball hit the sightscreen without bouncing and lodged! I asked if I could pad up and he put his arm around my shoulder and said, ‘James you are too nice, I won’t bowl at you.’ Absolutely a top geezer and terrifying at the same time!”
I hope you still have that footage.
103rdover: England 345-4 (Root 114, Stokes 40) For the first time in a while, Ben Stokes looks like he’s enjoying his batting. He is in one-day mode this morning and has just lifted Roach imperiously over midwicket for six.
“Michael Holding was pretty scary,” says Tony Bennett. “I watched him at Lord’s in 1976 in the MCC v West Indies trial match. I could see him, but not the ball. He hit Roope, I think it was, on the shoulder and I seem to recall it went for six leg-byes.”
Hang on, where’s your exclamation mark? Six leg-byes! If that’s true, somebody needs to write a long feature on that delivery alone.
102ndover: England 334-4 (Root 113, Stokes 34) Shannon Gabriel starts at the other end and beats his favourite enemy Ben Stokes with a superb delivery angled across him. We don’t yet know whether the ICC will take any action over Gabriel’s comments to Joe Root yesterday, mainly because at this stage there is no hard evidence of what he did or didn’t say. Mind you, in modern society you are innocent until assumed guilty, so I don’t really know what the ICC are waiting for.
“Thanks for the Shoaib footage,” says Richard O’Hagan. “It reinforces my belief that great fast bowling is less about whacking the ball in short and much more about the inswinging yorker, the rapid delivery that jags away from fourth stump and so forth.”
Isn’t it often the case that, in the parlance of that disgusting other sport, the short ball gets the assist and the full ball takes the wicket?
101stover: England 332-4 (Root 112, Stokes 34) There was a bit of rain in St Lucia this morning, but the sun is out and play has started on time. Ben Stokes sets the agenda for the next hour’s play, walking down the track to club Kemar Roach’s third ball of the day whence it came for four. Roach then beats Root with a brutal leg-cutting lifter from wide of the crease. That was the definition of unplayable.
“My favourite (and I happen know it’s high on your list) is Duncan Spencer, Canterbury, 1993, in the Sunday League title decider,” says Steve Hudson. “Glamorgan beat Kent, but Spencer was an utter flamethrower, and made our jaws drop.”
I was there that day, too, and as a result became obsessed with him for the next 26 years.
“Rob,” says Robert Wilson. “If you’re going wickedly muscular quick spells, then Devon Malcolm’s You-guys-are-history moment has to get a mention. Not an easy watch, it’s a really terrifying bit of hardcore vengeful mayhem. So unerringly and sickeningly did each delivery home in on South African heads, teeth or dangly bits, that you couldn’t help but feel that the Saffers had somehow annoyed the ball as well. Revenge is a dish best chucked at someone’s head at ergonomically impossible speeds.”
The first ball. That’s the one.
“I remember watching Jeff Thomson having a spell at David Steele on telly,” says Dave Brown. “Scarred the willies out of me, it looked petrifying.”
If I could go back in time to watch one fast bowler, it would definitely be Thommo before his shoulder injury. Just look at him.
Hot hot heat
So, what’s your favourite spell of raw quick bowling? I’ll start.
Now, about this match. England are going to win it; probably tomorrow, possibly today. They will resume on 325 for four, a lead of 448, with Joe Root on 111 and Ben Stokes on 29. We already know how the story ends, but finding out the details should be a lot of fun.
Hello. Are you high on speed? ‘Cause I’m high on speed! I should stress, in the interests of my future earnings potential, that I have not gone back to the 1990s in my choice of office stimulant. It’s just that I’m struggling to sit still with excitement, because today, at some stage, we are going to see Mark Wood bowl. I know.
We’re all friends here, so let us speak frankly. Wood’s recall for this Test barely raised a meh. It’s not that we don’t wish him well, because if you don’t love Mark Wood you should seek medical help at your earliest convenience. It’s just that his career had apparently been in steady, sad decline since his eyecatching contribution to the 2015 Ashes. When he was recalled, I expected him to smile a lot, fall over a few times, ride an imaginary horse once or twice and take two for 84 from 24 overs.
His spell on day two in St Lucia, when he put the wind up the Windies, would have been exhilarating even if it was normal for him to bowl 95mph. In the context of his injury problems, and his declining pace, it was revelatory. Experience suggests we shouldn’t get carried away with Wood, because his body is so fragile, so that’s exactly what I’m going to do: THEY’RE ONLY BLOODY WELL COMING HOME.
A-hem. Before we can consider the Ashes, there is the small matter of the World Cup. Never mind Wood or Archer; England might find room for both in their squad, maybe even their XI. Sod it, let’s have Olly Stone in there as well!
I’m sorry, I’ve completely lost the head. You see, this is what pure speed does to supporters, never mind batsmen.