‘What a game of cricket’ | The Daily Star
12:00 AM, July 14, 2020 / LAST MODIFIED: 12:00 AM, July 14, 2020

‘What a game of cricket’

When Shannon Gabriel walked off the field after his five-for on the fifth and final day of the Southampton Test, helping bowl England out for 313 for a chase of 200 for the Windies, there was no cheering crowd to give him an apt send-off back to the dressing room.

It was one of those rare moments where the absence of a packed crowd was felt in what was a riveting and indeed 'classic' Test as cricket began its adagio in the most palpable manner amidst the coronavirus pandemic.

The remainder of the Test match had almost remained serene, the quiet adding to the atmosphere of what was happening in the middle -- an atmosphere fit for Tests. The themes of the match converged on that dialogue of what a classic really felt like, from the beginning to the end. Even during these difficult times, cricket brought relief to so many that were waiting at home to watch some live action. In the commentary box, Michael Holding, who had set the tone for one of the themes of this Test series with his powerful and uplifting statement on 'Black Lives Matters', along with Nasser Hussain, reminisced on the past during the quiet but intense hours, socially distanced as was appropriate during a pandemic.

The statistician, an ever-present figure in the commentary box, was working from home, Holding informed, and yet cricket's new normal did not fail to deliver. Remote-controlled Spidercam and Batcam, roaming the outfield, provided the best footages to the audience sitting at home.

The element of the 'shifting of balance', that tug-of-war with the game swaying from one side to the other from session to session reminded of great matches from the past. West Indies' positivity had added lustre and defined how the rest of the series will go as well, with England now looking to turn things around after a four-wicket defeat at Ageas bowl.

"It didn't get into our minds that there were no noise from crowd because the focus was so much on the game," Nazmul Abedeen Fahim, a mentor to many of the Bangladesh national team stars, told The Daily Star when asked to talk about the game.

For many neutral fans, Windies are the team to support and their positivity shone through. "Their captain [Jason Holder] handed things very coolly. He led the team very well," Fahim reiterated.

"The excitement of the Test match and what was happening, we couldn't tell till the last day of the match. When West Indies lost three wickets, it appeared that England will make a comeback and up to that point the match was in the balance. It remained so before Windies reached 140-odd mark but there was an intense period of cricket before that. West Indies have shown their character."

The saliva ban has also come into effect and will affect the rest of the world too. "Definitely the bowlers are being hampered. We could see with the way they bowled, that if there was swing, the bowlers would be so much more devastating. But I feel the batsmen did not play to their full potential either," Fahim said.

After the few initial overs, the swing was not evident. Fahim concurred that Windies had used the seam well. "They used the seam for off-the-wicket movement. There was not much swing off the air and the pacers continuously changed their angles. But batsmen are still lacking in form," he opined.

Jermaine Blackwood, though, showed his resolve against the likes of James Anderson, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood. Edgy at the beginning, he gradually timed himself to a match-winning 95 with England pacers breathing fire, nearly crushing the hope of Windies win during that first session when the visitors were three down for 27.

After the game, English actor Hugh Laurie tweeted: "What a game of cricket.  It doesn't solve anything, cure anything, make anything go away -- but what a game of cricket."

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