We are in an age where Test cricket is fighting hard to survive.
Every day, Test Cricket seems to be battling for longevity.
Could outcomes that bring a Test to an end on the third day be a key to sustain the format? Or are we looking at an even truncated version of the traditional format?
Recently, the much-heightened expectations from the Afghanistan Test met a fatal end as the game came to a conclusion on the second day. Are occurrences such as the one in Antigua pointing to what may be universally concurring fact, with new-age Test cricket is staring at a 3-day future?
Some things, it better be said, are best left in the ebb of the future. What’s important is that the Antigua Test didn’t end in a draw. It posed a result, albeit one, highly one-sided.
But Jason Holder wouldn’t mind that, would he?
The Antiguan sun was shining and rightly so.
But it seemed, only for the West Indies.
For Bangladesh, though, the cloud cover witnessed on Day 1 and 2 at North Sound mirrored the grimness on the batting charts.
Shakib won’t be a proud man.
The first inning scorecard resembled a midget on the playing field. 43 all out. Tamim should have managed that mostly inside 5 overs in a T20, you felt.
The most important question wasn’t whether the home team would pile on a comfortable lead. It was if the West Indies had expected to bowl out a team nicknamed “tigers” inside the opening session, before lunch on Day 1?
The equation was relatively simple. West Indies was smiling; Bangladesh was whining.
For lack of a better word, you felt Antigua was at the forefront of a nuclear test. An explosion of competitive, acrid and dominating fast bowling was on display.
Kemar ‘Roar’ Roach
Kemar Roach, at the back of a successful series versus Sri Lanka, seemed yet again the “Kemar Roar” he’d been all throughout. Out of 10 batsmen, 4 managing 0 meant Bangladesh succumbed to their lowest-ebb in Test cricket.
Mushfiqur, Tamim, Shakib- a boisterous Bangla trinity- contributed 4 between them. They had to thank Liton Das for what can only be called a dogged 25 in the first inning.
But Roach, unplayable in his 2nd five-for in a fortnight was the highlight of the day.
Out to bat much before the second half of the opening day, thankfully for home fans, the Windies openers stuck it out. Later, Day 1 ended with the Windies enjoying a lead of over 180. A dogged 121 would be stuck by Kraigg Brathwaite- prompting the question, whether he’s the best West Indies opener in last decade?
Meanwhile, Devon Smith, ensued in a saga of saving his career would strike 58. You wondered whether a career had been saved?
Importantly, the one question that bogged most die-hard West Indies supporters remained intact.
Could Shai Hope compile something useful?
He answered when most around him were losing their heads, Roston Chase and Shane Dowrich, getting out cheaply- with a 67. He was for the most part of his inning a monument of concentration.
Holder would later join in and free his arms, carving classy cover drives and his favourite hoist over widish mid-on.A few sixes were struck. The West Indies amassed a mountain- for in comparison to Bangladesh’s 43 any score in excess of 200 would warrant such celebration- 406.
Bangladesh struggled Again
Later, expected to bat out, at least a day if not more, Bangladesh ended the day at 62-6. Just what was going on?
One wondered in sheer dismay and for sheer lack of application, was Bangladesh even aware they were meant to bury their heads in concentration?
The only saving grace was provided by the inexperienced wicket-keeping batsman, Nurul Hasan, who struck the team’s fastest fifty outside the sub-continent. If he managed 64 off 74, in a very ODI fashion, what became of the vastly experienced Mushfiqur and Tamim?
At the end, it didn’t take much for Shanon Gabriel, in devious form all summer, to wrap up a paltry Bangladesh resistance.
But was 144 a better comeback than the ignominy of the first inning? Nonetheless, Bangladesh’ capitulation earned the West Indies, their greatest-ever triumph earned at home. A win by an inning and 219 runs meant Antigua had been conquered and the caravan now moves on to Jamaica.
The Bangladeshi sentiment was justly echoed by the dejected void of newly resuscitated captain Shakib Al Hasan at the presentation.
“It didn’t look like we adjusted one bit to the conditions here”
Well, you may want to acclimatize now Shakib. For Jamaica’s relatively batting-friendly wicket wouldn’t threaten to make Windies bowlers any less threatening than they already are.
With Roach and Gabriel seemingly enough to contain what cannot be called a lame Bangladesh batting unit, although strangely missing Imrul and Soumya Sarkar, what can Jamaica bring?
Although, the priceless feeling of victory did have a dampener. The infinitely valuable spectacle of West Indies winning by an innings and 219 runs- as rare an occurrence as monsoon showers during peak winters- came mightily close to being dwarfed by the handful of spectators in the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium.
Along with the commentary team, you could say those in attendance may just have been more than Bangladesh’s first inning total.
Who’s going to fix that?