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Calling Roger Harper; reviewing Blackwood’s 29-ball first innings cameo

Hello? Roger Harper? Please hear me out.

If Jermaine Blackwood is a Test batsman, then redwood is a cure for cancer and Covid, Idi Amin is King Henry the Eighth and I am Tiger Woods’ father. And son.

Photo: Iconic US golfer Tiger Woods.
(Copyright NBC)

Have you watched the shocking videotape of the 29-year-old Jamaican’s knock in the first innings of the Second Test between West Indies and Sri Lanka currently in progress at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua? 

There are none so blind, methinks, as those who will not see and, in spite of the mounting mountain of evidence, still see-lect.

Coming in at 86 for 3 on Day One, the current vice-captain treated us to a brilliant—not my definition!—48-minute, 29-ball cameo for 18. 

And departed.

JB clearly sees himself as having the quality to elicit comparisons with India captain Virat Kohli; he reports having a recent helpful conversation with him about batting. 

One shudders to think of what his situation was before he got help. 

Photo: West Indies batsman Jermaine Blackwood (left) got his first Test cap from cricket legend Brian Lara in 2014.
(via WICB Media/Randy Brooks)

Some sympathisers see—or say they see—some similarity to yesteryear’s Collis King or Keith Boyce. 

If they are sane, then maybe they smoked something. 

Such a comparison may offend genuine all-rounders King and Boyce. I can point to no single memorable Boyce innings. But for me Blackwood’s batting is often reminiscent of one unforgettable King innings, 88 off 66 balls.

However, it needs to be pointed out that that innings came not in a Test match but in the WI’s 1979 World Cup Final against England! A 60-over game. That’s a detail some may ignore.

What I saw on Monday is what the neutrals see. ESPNcricinfo’s Live Commentary throw-away line sums it up succinctly: ‘An entertaining innings ends prematurely.’

Blackwood may belong beside Beenie Man and Buju but not in whites. 

Photo: West Indies batsman Jermaine Blackwood makes a shot during the fifth day of the first Test match against England at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Sunday 12 July 2020.
(Copyright Adrian Dennis/Pool via AP)

One Shaka—Hislop?—echoes the ESPN view almost verbatim in an unsolicited post mortem Blackwood comment: ‘The story of Blackwood’s Test career to date, an entertaining innings coming to a premature end…’ 

Moments earlier, there had been this from Sahan: ‘Seems like Blackwood is trying to chase that 375 from the last match at the rate he’s playing.’

You, Mr Harper, be the judge. 

Here, essentially, is the ESPN ‘live’ description of how Blackwood handled each of his 29 balls. A few of my own comments are added,

With four slips waiting, he defends his first two balls from Vishwa Fernando and then takes a single to midwicket off his third. Facing Suranga Lakmal, who has claimed two of the wickets to fall so far, he defends #4 and thrashes #5 past a diving cover for his first boundary.

Photo: West Indies batsman Jermaine Blackwood.
(via Expressandstar)

No runs come from any of #6 (which ‘flies off the edge to the off-side’), #8 or #9. Ball #7, however, is ‘hammered (…) over Lakmal’s head’ for six.

He works #8 into the leg-side and tries to do the same with #9 but misses.

1-4-6. Eleven from nine balls. And in case you need to be told, living dangerously. 

After Kraigg Brathwaite gets a streaky boundary though the slips in Fernando’s next over, JB ‘gets under [Lakmal’s first ball of the next over, JB’s 10th] and lofts it over mid-on’ for four.

I scribbled: ‘Jimmy Cliff in The Harder They Come: starboy doh dead before the last reel’.

Lakmal’s next ball raps him on the pads but is missing leg. No run.

The next, tickled to midwicket with the angle, yields a single.

Photo: Reggae superstar Jimmy Cliff in The Harder They Fall.

With #13, an inside edge off Fernando saves JB as Joel Wilson responds ‘not out’ to the ‘massive lbw appeal’. Ultra Edge proves him right. 

Blackwood defends against #14, #15 and #17, which ‘whizzes past the edge’. He might have been temporarily distracted because #18 is uncharacteristically ‘left alone’ after, at #16, he has essayed ‘a wild hoick but misses’.

When Brathwaite takes a four and a three off successive Dushmantha Chameera deliveries, in the next Fernando over, JB gets one which is ‘full on middle and leg’ and ‘tries to nudge it into the leg-side’. Unsuccessfully. The appeal is turned down.

Ball #20 on a good length outside off-stump, draws a failed attempt at an uppercut.  And to #21, a short ball on off-stump, he ‘does well to sway away from the line’.

Restraint? Perhaps. But you sense that it will be short-lived.

Photo: Sri Lanka pacer Dushmantha Chameera.

JB is now on 16 off 21 balls and WI are 113 for 3. At the other end, the skipper is unbeaten on 37 off 88.

In the next over, a maiden from Fernando, Brathwaite edges to third slip and gets a life. So, carefully, JB keeps out balls #22 and 23. Then ‘a whippy flick to deep midwicket’ earns him one run off #24, which is ‘full on middle’.

But the temporary circumspection spawned by the skipper’s good fortune is, predictably, fast forgotten. 

Off his 25th ball, the last of Chameera’s over, a back-of-a-length delivery outside off, JB essays ‘a slashy cut over point’ but merely succeeds in ‘under-edging it onto the deck’.

Having tried unsuccessfully to cut Chameera off #26, which keeps low, he succeeds with #28, on a good length outside off stump from Lakmal, but it goes straight to point. 

In between, #27, from Chameera, is worked into the leg-side for a single. 

Ball #29 is overpitched, just outside off. Vice-captain Blackwood drives, away from his body and Dickwella dives to his right to pouch a low catch off the edge…

Photo: Bangladesh cricketers celebrate the wicket of West Indies batsman Jermaine Blackwood on Day 3 of the 1st Test in Bangladesh.

The die is cast. One chance more. Then bye. 

Not as in leg-byes and extras. Goodbye. Not as in au revoir. As in adieu. Adiós. Arrivederci. Auf Wiedersehen. Farewell. Sayonara. Vale.

Really in any language, Mr Harper, that has the potential to get through to you and your fellow selectors. 

I hope you’ll agree obscene is germane. But let’s not go there. 

So I simply tip my hat to you and say keep up the good work. 

Bravo!

About Earl Best

Earl Best
Earl Best taught cricket, French, football and Spanish at QRC for many years and has written consistently for the Tapia and the Trinidad and Tobago Review since the 1970's. He is also a former sports editor at the Trinidad Guardian and the Trinidad Express and is now a senior lecturer in Journalism at COSTAATT.

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2 comments

  1. It’s a Guyanese thing. Harper and Lloyd picking the team. Harper routing for Hetmyer who did not pass the fitness test but have a lot of spit for Pooran

    • Earl Best

      Well, I am not happy with the team as currently constituted but I strongly disagree that it’s “a Guyanese thing.”

      If any country gets better than it deserves, it’s Barbados—and none of the current selectors (the captain has no vote) hails from Bimshire.