Well, another new dawn has passed and proved to be a false one. England's performance in the First Test against the West Indies can only be described as woeful, and its selection and the issue of central contracts deserves some consideration.
On the other hand, the West Indies and especially their new captain, Jimmy Adams, are deserving of the highest praise. When Brian Lara last year undertook his "sabbatical", the Windies decided to turn to Adams who was in the middle of a poor run of form in his place. What a great decision that has turned out to be! West Indian cricket had been written off, possibly for ever, and the advent of American sport, televised throughout the Caribbean, had been touted as its replacement. The cricket team were doing badly and youngsters were not coming into the game. The Board of Control were at each other's throats and money and sponsors were shunning the sport. Cricket had never been at a lower ebb.
However, under Adams, the national team fought back from unpromising positions to defeat Zimbabwe and more importantly overcome Pakistan, in the final test of the recent series, to win the match thanks to a 7 hour undefeated 46 from the new skipper just before leaving for England. How they would do against everyone's old enemy was, until last weekend, a matter of debate. Now we know. The two old war-horses, Walsh and Ambrose, bowled beautifully on the first morning especially, and throughout the match, well supported by Rose and King. By denying England runs, they kept them under pressure during both innings and took wickets at regular intervals. When the West Indies batted, Campbell, Lara, Chanderpaul and Rose played shots while skipper Adams played the sheet anchor role, something West Indies simply have not had for years. I cannot see them lose the series and some younger players are emerging, such as Hinds, Sarwan and King.
England, on the other hand, are again in a mess. Despite being awarded a central contract, Chris Schofield, the young Lancastrian leg-spinner was omitted after 2 tests against Zimbabwe - Robert Croft of Glamorgan, who has no contract, was brought in in his place. Schofield did not bowl in his first test and was not outstanding with the ball in his second, but he did score a half century but now that he is not playing, no one is any the wiser as to his potential or level of achievement. Should he have been (a) given a contract, (b) selected or (c) dropped? The English selectors do not seem to know the answer to these questions either.
As to England's bowling, Gough could not be faulted and seems to have returned to his old form that he had attained before last summer's injury problems. Caddick, who seemed to have gone ahead of Gough in the pecking order, showed himself to be uncomfortable against left-handers, which is going to be a continuing problem as the West Indies have seven of them. Giddings, who looked good against Zimbabwe, struggled against better opposition and Croft wasn't good enough when he played for England in the past, and still isn't.
As for the batting, the less said the better. Atherton is still Atherton, the best of them. Ramprakash has difficulty dominating any attack; Hussain is not consistent enough. Hick is useless against fast bowling of the higher class, so why give him a contract out of the blue against the Windies? Knight is an opener who isn't good enough to open, and Flintoff will very soon have to kick on from being promising, though he did show a bowling improvement, especially in speed (88 mph) in this match. We will probably have to return the Thorpe (non-contract) and Vaughan (contracted) as there do not appear to be any young superstars on the horizon. Perhaps another new dawn next season!