England has staged its first day-night Test match and while there was the frisson of the unknown about the first pink ball match seen in the country, in the end the result was all too grimly predictable.
The novelty of watching Test match cricket under floodlights did at least appear to have attracted spectators to the game, with Edgbaston recording its highest non-Ashes attendance on day two – it was just a shame that the 60,000 or so people who came through the gates over the course of the Test’s three days, had such a poor match to watch.
While the introduction of day-night Test cricket was intended as a measure to try and preserve Test cricket’s future, matches such as this one suggest that there are rather more serious problems with the sport that need fixing – you can repaint a fence however you like, but it isn’t much use if it has a great big hole in it.
It was ultimately a fairly miserable performance from the West Indies, perhaps most inexcusably in the field, where they looked more ragged and demoralised on day one than South Africa did earlier this summer, at the very end of their gruelling and largely unsuccessful three month tour.
Things largely went right for England from the very start, with Joe Root winning the toss and opting to bat under sunny Birmingham skies. In fact the only real disappointment for the hosts would come in the opening hour or so of the game as neither debutant Mark Stoneman or relative newbie Tom Westley managed to reach double figures, let alone make the sort of score that would help firmly establish them in the side.
Fortunately though England were able to call upon their leading Test match run scorer, in Alastair Cook, and the man he named as the best he’s ever batted with, in Root, and the pair put on a partnership of 248 on day one, that all but instantly put the West Indies out of the game.
The visitors were fairly wayward with the ball, unable to ever really exert much pressure and even worse in the field as England recovered from their now customary early wobble at 39/2 to declare on day two on 514/8.
Root’s hundred was the 13th of his career, as his excellent form continued, while Cook notched his fourth double hundred, the fastest of his career. The West Indies bowlers admitting afterwards that they felt almost powerless to prevent him scoring, let alone get him out.
Dawid Malan also chipped in with 65, which he needed after a lean start to his Test career against South Africa, although having seen off a difficult early spell under floodlights, he might rue that given the calibre of the opposition and the fairly placid pitch, he did not fully cash in and really cement himself in the side – it still seems fairly bizarre that he is at the moment in pole position to bat at number five for England in this winter’s Ashes.
With the ball in hand England were fairly ruthless, bowling out the West Indies twice in just over a day, with their experienced new ball pair James Anderson and Stuart Broad doing the bulk of the damage in a series of excellent spells over the course of day three.
Broad finished with five wickets in the match, going past Sir Ian Botham to become England’s second highest wicket taker of all time, with the only man ahead of him on the list, Anderson, claiming the same amount, becoming the joint leading wicket taker in Tests at Edgbaston in the process.
For the West Indies there was little to be positive about, although Jermaine Blackwood did at least offer some resistance in their first innings, battling to 79 not out as the rest of the side crumbled around him.
Ultimately the tourists were routed inside three days that included almost an entire session being washed out, as they lost the first Investec Test by an innings and 209 runs. Day three saw the West Indies lose 19 wickets for just 261 runs – it was not much of an advertisement for the game.
Perhaps the most dispiriting thing is that two more Tests remain in this series, the sides looking so horribly mismatched that the hope of any competitive games seems a forlorn one – Test cricket can introduce as many new gimmicks as it likes, but until it fixes problems like this it will always remain in trouble.