It is perhaps apt that the final “match” of the Paul Downton era at the England & Wales Cricket Board is this farce of a non-event.
As the tourists went through the motions in what transpired to be a glorified net session at Warner Park, news broke that the managing director of England cricket had been sacked.
Downton, in his now defunct role, would have given the final sign-off for these two warm-up games which precede the three-Test series against West Indies. But even he could not have predicted how meaningless they would become.
The opening two-day tour match here this week was eventually drawn when the St Kitts & Nevis Invitation XI, bowled out for 59 in their first innings, clung on for 35 overs in their second despite the fact they were at one point reduced to 24 for six.
Such is the low-grade quality of the opposition England, attempting to gain some meaningful practice before next week’s first Test in Antigua, were forced to loan Jonathan Trott, Gary Ballance, Jonny Bairstow and Joe Root to their hosts for this second warm-up.
To say things did not go to plan is an understatement as Trott, dismissed for a third-ball duck by Jimmy Anderson, and Ballance, spun out on 17 by James Tredwell, both failed to capitalise on their unexpected chances for more time in the middle.
Bairstow did make the most of his opportunity with the bat, however, scoring a fluent 98 before eventually being dismissed by Ben Stokes in the first over after tea. That said, the Yorkshire wicketkeeper-batsman, in the Caribbean only as back-up to Jos Buttler, has little chance of playing in the Tests.
Asked about Downton’s departure afterwards, Bairstow said: “We just found out at lunch. No one said anything, it was straight back out and get on with our job out here in St Kitts. I don’t know what the role entails or anything like that, it’s a decision that’s taken above us. It’s our job out here to get on with the task at hand and win a series for England.”
Bairstow’s departure brought Root to the crease, a surprise given he had not been expected to bat. Yet he looked in better touch than during his innings of 64 earlier in the week, reaching the close unbeaten on 87.
An injury scare for Stuart Broad added to the sense of chaos on a day that had begun with the touring party unaware of Downton’s fate. The quick had complained to the umpires about a damp patch on the crease after bowling three balls of the second over of the day.
Groundstaff were summoned for running repairs and with sawdust applied, Broad continued and slipped during his delivery stride, turning his left ankle. The fall was dramatic and the treatment by the England physio, Craig de Weymarn, lengthy.
An injury to one of their key bowlers five days before the opening Test was the last thing England needed. Thankfully it was short-lived as Broad, who spent an hour off the field getting the ankle iced, returned to bowl without any apparent discomfort and took a wicket during the final session, knocking out the off stump of the home captain, Jacques Taylor.
It had become obvious very quickly how bad the St Kitts & Nevis XI were in this week’s first game so it was no surprise when any pretence of the second of these warm-ups actually being a match was dropped on Tuesday evening.
The tourists will also include some of their bowlers – likely to be Mark Wood and Liam Plunkett – in the St Kitts & Nevis team when the England XI spend a day batting on Thursday.
This article was written by Chris Stocks in Basseterre, for theguardian.com on Wednesday 8th April 2015 16.49 Europe/Londonguardian.co.uk © Guardian News and Media Limited 2010