Shall I go with a snappy one word title do think? Or maybe a song title even? I’m not going to try and channel what Dmitri does so well, so I’ll go down a different line.
I thought I’d open up with a preview of the second Test in Grenada, with some observations about the first Test as well, and see what you think. Firstly, I know that England got a huge amount of stick for failing to bowl the West Indies out in the first Test, but on balance I think I’d give the credit to the West Indies themselves for surviving. It certainly wasn’t a normal day five pitch that had deteriorated, it simply became even slower. On a number of occasions in recent years, England have pulled off minor miracles in drawing matches they had no right to – and I presume that opposition supporters reacted in the same manner about their team failing to get over the line. Sometimes it just happens.
Now that draw does raise a fair few questions about the second Test. The pitch is forecast to be even slower and lower, potentially leading to even more attritional cricket than we have seen so far. And if that is the case, losing the toss and fielding first with only three days rest could prove challenging for the England attack – if the West Indies bat well. England sent down 130 overs in the second innings in Antigua, it’s a big ask for them to do so again. And that raises the question about Broad’s pace. There seems little doubt he is down on where he has been, and it was striking to see him deliver 79mph bouncers (quite effectively to be fair) in both innings.
That this series has become a must win for various members of the ECB hierarchy has removed any question of the bowlers being managed as much as they possibly could have been in other circumstances. With such a fearful schedule over the next year the prospect of one or other of the key men breaking down looms large.
And what of the spinner? There is always a danger of viewing the man left out to be the answer to all problems faced, and Tredwell didn’t provide the hoped for threat on the fifth day, that his advocates claimed Rashid would have done. But he did bowl pretty well in the first innings, and could be argued to merit retention. Bringing Moeen in, on the back of ten overs in a county match is also something of a risk. And what is Rashid for? It’s a little hard to see at present any circumstances where he will play, and that’s troubling. Leg spinners do go for runs with a single exception, but good ones also take wickets. No one worries about the fact that Dale Steyn doesn’t have a great economy rate. One wonders whether England would have selected Stuart MacGill.
Then there’s the captain. Even his staunchest defenders would concede that Cook the batsman is of much greater value than Cook the captain, and it’s there that the biggest concerns lie. To me, his technique looks little changed from last year. His stance has opened a little bit, but the head position still seems too far over and if so that would create the kind of problems with the full ball that we saw in the first Test. Possibly under pressure he reverted, but I will be watching closely in this match to see if the same problems are present.
One final cricketing thought. Colin Graves made it very clear England were expected to win this series. But is just a win enough? Did he expect it to be 3-0? It’s an open question. But make no mistake, failure to win this one, with Bridgetown to come, and the alarm bells will be ringing.