By Tony Cozier
at Kensington Oval
Mark Twain’s assertion that there are three kinds of lies, “lies, damned lies, and statistics”, was hardly made with cricket in mind but it was accurately borne out by Fidel Edwards’ figures in England’s mammoth first innings here.
They were 30 overs, three for 151 and an utter injustice to the speed and spirit of a fast bowler who had every right to throw his hands in the air and to say to hell with it.
There was no encouragement from a pitch tailored for batting. What support there was from his fellow bowlers rapidly diminished as England put the boot in. Above all, there was downright betrayal from fielders who missed one critical chance after another.
Somehow, Edwards managed to disregard such handicaps. In each and every spell, he put his head down and charged in. His pace rarely dipped below the high 80 miles an hour. It was repeatedly above 90.
While others could strike no fire from the unforgiving surface, he repeatedly made batsmen jump around with his skidding bouncers. When he pounded it in too short, the ball flew over wicket-keeper Denesh Ramdin’s head to the boundary.
While others visibly wilted through the long England innings, his intensity remained constant. Unfairly, so did his misfortune.
On the opening day, he had unsettled every England batsman with the hostility. Yet he had nothing to show at the end of it.
He found the edge of Andrew Strauss’ bat only for Chris Gayle to parry a two-handed catch to the ground. The England captain was 53 at the time. He added another 109.
He also peppered Alistair Cook with his body-line attack. He might have had him three times from uncontrolled hooks. Yet the shot that brought about his downfall was off Taylor.
Late on the first afternoon, armed with the second new ball, Edwards was once more on the attack. He drew Kevin Pietersen into the hook, another flawed effort spiralled towards Jerome Taylor, stationed deep on the leg-side for just such an eventuality, but the catch was floored, the third off the tireless pacer for the day.
Edwards was back at it bright and early yesterday for an unflagging spell of nine consecutive overs spanning the first hour and a half. Pietersen’s wicket, lbw to a fast, full length delivery, was fitting but belated reward for his efforts but the only one.
Pietersen’s dismissal brought in Ravi Bopara, setting off the most stirring contest of the match.
It was immediately obvious that the Essex man was keen on the hook. Edwards was equally keen to oblige.
Not yet adjusted to the conditions or, more significantly, Edwards’ pace, Bopara was only four when he went after the inevitable bouncer.
Not for the first time, Edwards stood mid-pitch on his follow-through in anticipation of the catch at deep square-leg that would surely be taken this time. Taylor was again the fielder but the task was not as difficult as Pietersen’s. Yet again, the ball slipped through grasping fingers and fell to earth with a thud.
The escape did not deter Bopara. On this evidence, his hooking is compulsive. It is a trait that will be noted by fast bowlers the world over, not least Australians.
One such limp shot off Edwards a few overs later landed in no man’s land at midwicket. Another sailed a foot or so over the finger tips of the fielder at square-leg on the ropes for six.
More short-pitched stuff, and more hooks and pulls, followed. The adrenaline was pumping through the veins of both combatants. It was in the stands as well.
As Bopara missed one pull, the ball thudded into his grill. It took more than five minutes for him to have attention in the middle from the physio’ before he was ready again.
It was raw, gripping Test cricket. But it couldn’t last.
When Edwards was finally rested – probably against his wishes – Pietersen’s was his only victim.
He was recalled later in the afternoon when all fight had been drained from team mates who could barely drag themselves around the field, waiting for the relief of England’s declaration.
Such resignation is not within Edwards’ competitive nature. He kept on bounding in, still inviting the hook from Bopara. At last, he snared his man whose swivelling shot landed in the grasp of the same Taylor at long-leg who had dropped him at four.
This time, the chance was held. By then, Bopara had a hundred against his name – and so did Edwards.