S.N. Don's blog

To Declare or Not to Declare, That is the Question

At long last, a Test Match that was enthralling throughout the five days of play. For once, neither side dominated from start to finish. For once, a Test Match ran its full course of five days. This is why Test cricket is the best format and always should be. Players are always remembered for their exploits in Test cricket rather than the truncated forms and long may that continue. Yet, there have been discussions and disagreements surrounding the win by the West Indies regarding the decision, ultimately taken by the England Captain Joe Root, to declare on the fourth evening. In my opinion, I think that it was a positive call to make and also a brave one. I will try and justify my opinion below.

England’s declaration came at a time when we were eight wickets down and the West Indies’ opening batsmen having to face a potentially awkward six overs before the close. With eight wickets down, it is conceivable that the final two wickets may have fallen in the time available on Monday which would have removed any discussions regarding whether or not the declaration was correct or otherwise. In those six overs, it was also conceivable that we could have taken a wicket or two; alternatively, the batsmen could have got off to a flier. As it was, neither scenario happened.

Setting a target is a key concept of captaincy. Set it too low and you will lose more often than not. Set the target too high and the batsmen are less likely to take any adverse risks in chasing too large a total. I believe that the fielding side will have more opportunities to take wickets when the batting side are playing more attacking shots. I think that we got the timing of the declaration about right.

The wicket was taking spin on the fourth day so with Moeen Ali and a pretty decent pace attack, our bowlers needed to be hitting the right line and length from the off. They should have starved the batsmen of the opportunity to rotate the strike, so 15 maidens from the 91 overs bowled tells its own story. One could argue that we dropped too many catches in the match. Well, the West Indies dropped seven which is also the number of catches put down by Kevin Pietersen in 2005.

Basically, had England’s bowlers and fielders put in a decent shift on Tuesday, or batted and bowled better on the first two days, we might be basking in another Test win. That they didn’t, and we aren’t, is what makes Test cricket so engaging. That’s why it’s short-sighted to lay the blame at Joe Root’s door this time around.

For too long, cricket in the Caribbean has been on the slide. Test cricket benefits from having strength in depth and whereas I really wanted the likes of Greenidge, Haynes, Ambrose, Walsh, Lara, Holding and others to fail miserably whenever they played England, they set the standards for others to try and match if not improve.

Now if the Lords Test is half as enthralling as the one at Headingly, I won’t be complaining as I will be going to that one.

S.N. Don

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