CHELMSFORD, England, CMC – West Indies bowling reserves showed their mettle yesterday, limiting Essex to a moderate total on the opening day of their three-day tour match at County Ground.
Fielding a bowling attack that boasted just 12 Tests between them, West Indies dismissed Essex for 263 and reached 24 for one at the close, still 239 runs behind on first innings.
Narsingh Deonarine was the unlikely hero, grabbing three for 32 with his off-spin while fast bowler Lionel Baker, with two Tests to his name, claimed two for 39 and the uncapped pacer Andrew Richardson, two for 51.
With leading pacers Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards not yet available for varying reasons, coach John Dyson would have been pleased with the display from his reserves.
Teenaged batsman Jaik Mickleburgh top scored with 58 while former England Under-19s captain Varun Chopra struck 50, but the West Indies bowlers nipped potentially damaging partnerships in the bud early.
Test batsman Alastair Cook, searching for form ahead of the upcoming Test series, made 46 while experienced all-rounder James Middlebrook hit a cameo 46 to rally his side.
Opting to bat first after winning the toss, the hosts were in early trouble when Baker broke seasoned opener Jason Gallian’s edge with the day’s third delivery for captain Darren Sammy to snare the catch at third slip without a run on the board.
Cook and Chopra then added 87 for the second wicket, batting positively against the Windies attack that included the uncapped fast bowler Nelon Pascal and medium pacers Dave Bernard Jr and Sammy.
The left-handed Cook, just recovered from a broken finger, played several handsome shots in counting eight fours and a six – a well timed pull off Richardson.
Chopra, stroking the ball nicely square of the wicket, was particularly severe on anything loose and hammered nine fours off 70 balls in and hour-and-a-half at the crease.
He reached his half-century in style, cracking three fours off a Richardson over to bring up his landmark off just 62 balls.
Richardson had the last laugh, however, when he had Chopra well caught at square leg by Deonarine as Essex went to the lunch break at 98 for two.
Cook, quick to pounce on anything short, was the first casualty after the break caught at second slip by Devon Smith off Sammy, after facing 80 balls in an innings that last a shade over two hours.
The 19-year old Mickleburgh and James Foster (23) then restored order to the Essex innings by adding a purposeful 66 for the fourth wicket.
Mickleburgh hit three fours off 117 balls in 154 minutes while Foster faced 67 balls and also counted three boundaries.
Baker bowled Foster off the inside edge at 168 for four and Deonarine claimed his first wicket when he sent back Tom Westley for four to a catch by wicketkeeper Lendl Simmons, shortly before tea at 189 for five.
Essex then lost Mickleburgh early in the final session after he added just one to his tea score, trapped lbw to Richardson and when former Zimbabwe batsman Grant Flower was run out for nine, West Indies were on top at 210 for seven.
Middlebrook rallied the lower order gallantly, smashing 46 from 64 balls with seven fours and a six but Deonarine bowled Mervyn Westfield for one, to keep the hosts in check.
Bernard grabbed his first wicket when he trapped the dangerous Middlebrook lbw at 263 for nine and Deonarine wrapped up the innings with no addition to the score, when he prised out Jahid Ahmed for five to secure this third wicket.
West Indies did not have the luxury of finishing the day unblemished as the left-handed Smith fell to a catch at short leg off Middlebrook’s off-spin for 13.