After the suitably English opening day, where it was mostly a matter of watching the rain fall, at least there was a fair amount of play on day two, even if for England it didn’t go especially well.
There are a whole list of reasonable excuses for things that have happened or will happen in this match; the empty ground will be disconcerting for the players, the lack of match practice, the lack of a season – it all adds up to limiting any judgements that can reasonably be made of any of the players and teams. The problem is that those judgements will be made anyway, that’s the nature of sport.
Thus, maybe it was always destined that a rusty England batting order would struggle somewhat in bowler friendly conditions. Maybe it was always likely that a total of around 200 would be where it ended up. Perhaps as much as anything luck played a part in England batsmen getting out, and West Indies batsmen managing to survive. Certainly there was little the England bowlers did differently, and it can’t be said they bowled poorly at all. But the West Indies did bowl well as a unit, and Jason Holder was particularly fine, leaving the impression that with sunny weather forecast for tomorrow, the visitors are well ahead in this game. Holder said this evening that had he won the toss he would have bowled, which may be true, or may be him being mischievous to throw some extra responsibility onto Ben Stokes for his call, but either way, so far it’s working out for Holder’s team.
It can still change easily enough, this game is in its early stages despite being two days down and neither batting order engenders great confidence in their collective durability. There is an opportunity to put England under pressure, but there’s no reason England can’t bowl the West Indies out cheaply either, it’s all potential and possibility.
Which is all a long-winded way of saying God knows what will happen tomorrow. At least with a decent forecast it’s unlikely that bad light will be as much a factor as it was today. Objectively, the umpires applying the bad light rules are doing entirely the correct thing, but cricket’s ability to look idiotic to potential converts never ceases to frustrate, mostly because so few at the highest level of administration are bothered. Or more specifically, they seem incapable of comprehending that it might be a negative in the first place.
Yet for the reasons outlined a few days back none of it matters overly, it’s just a pleasure to have any play, limited and flawed as it may be. It does to the teams, of course, but the wider significance is that cricket is on at all. It remains hard to be overly exercised this week with Joe Denly’s flaws against the ball coming back in, or Jos Buttler’s weaknesses outside off stump, but it is possible to derive huge pleasure from the way Holder has led his team both today and over a number of years – and arguably before he was captain. Tomorrow it will be someone else’s turn. It isn’t to say that those who point out the problems are in any way wrong, indeed they are quite right, but it feels like background noise right now. Hell, even the umpiring decisions being overturned more often than a Reliant Robin taking a hairpin is a mild amusement rather than anything more. It is an odd feeling, in the wake of a pandemic, to welcome the game into the living room, and care so little about the errors but enjoy the successes, from whomever, irrespective of team.
It probably won’t last long, but at present it is one of life’s pleasures, and there has been little enough of that for it to be more than enough.