England vs. West Indies, 3rd Test – Preview

After the Test match at Edgbaston, the last thing that I thought I would be writing about would be around a series decider at Lords; however this is exactly what we have got in store for us, thanks to a mixture of a gutsy and skillful fourth innings batting performance from the West Indies and a pretty woeful performance with the ball from England throughout the last Test. It would have been extremely churlish to undermine the West Indian performance at Headlingley, especially after all the criticism that they have faced over the past couple of years and I thought TLG amongst others were rightful in their focus on congratulating the West Indian team rather than focus on England’s shortcomings in the immediate aftermath of the last Test. That being said, I have been quite surprised that there hasn’t been some sort of backlash against an England team that consistently takes 1 step forward and then 1 step back against both good quality opposition and those that they should really steamroll (especially when you take into account the pure cricketing resources that the English team has access to).

Now I must admit that I watched very little of the last Test (life and family got in the way of that) and as a result my thoughts must be tempered on that proviso, however it feels I could be writing a review of any series that England have been involved with over the past few years, obviously apart from the last Indian series when we were quite simply blown away. It’s true that England on their day have a decent batting line up – Cook is a good international cricketer with a ton of runs behind him, Root is obviously world class and we have a number of high quality all-rounders such as Stokes, Moeen, Bairstow and Woakes. In terms of the bowling, we have 2 vastly experienced fast bowlers with over 800 wickets and 200 appearances between them and a spinner that bowls wicket taking deliveries; yet after every series that I end up reviewing, we seem to have the same gaps and weaknesses as before and a complete inability to put our ‘A game’ together on a regular basis. We still don’t have a settled opener, a number 3, a number 5 and a consistent spin bowler that will challenge the best teams and comfortably beat the poorer teams, which the West Indies are, in all fairness. I didn’t watch the last day at Headingley, but I understand that Moeen was toothless, Woakes looked half fit and Anderson & Broad decided that pitching the ball up was a luxury option, this combined with what was a pretty headless first innings performance from our batsmen (Ben Stokes aside) meant that we got we deserved. Another defeat. And guess what if we do the same at Lords, we could well lose again.

So much for the mediocre side coming across to get a hammering from a superior side in both batting and bowling departments! England have shown that they can look just as mediocre and clueless as any other side when they don’t decide to turn up or conditions aren’t in their favour. Now Australia are hardly pulling up trees at the moment, but in their home conditions and with an English batting line up that is at best inconsistent and at worst is decidedly average, then I must admit I have some well entrenched fears when it comes to the Ashes tour this winter.

Naturally though, there is still one game to go in this series and England better have their mind on the West Indies rather than the upcoming winter, as otherwise an embarrassing blip could turn into a pretty horrific series loss with plenty of finger pointing and ramifications as a result. It wouldn’t surprise me if England kept with the same XI despite the fact that Woakes looked very short of match practice, as a change of heart and a tip towards Roland-Jones would surely confirm that they made a mistake in their selection for Headingley (which they did). There are also a number of English batsmen either drinking in the last chance saloon (Westley) or desperately trying to secure their plane ticket for the winter escapades (Stoneman, Malan). Now a big score doesn’t guarantee that these players will score big runs in Australia; however another failure against what is nothing more than a pop gun attack by international standards could be terminal for certain individuals’ international ambitions.

As for the West Indies, it’s almost like tossing a coin as to which team will turn up, the one that fought so excellently at Headingley or the one that so meekly collapsed at Edgbaston. There may be a skills gap between the two sides, but it was heartening to see a young man in Shai Hope harnessing his raw talents and producing the two innings of his career so far to guide the West Indians to victory. There were also key contributions from Brathwaite, Holder and Gabriel alongside Shai Hope in this Test victory which shows that on any given day, The West Indies can rally and that it might not be all doom and gloom in the future for our Caribbean friends. As TLG wrote in his last piece, the romance of the underdog winning in Test Cricket might be in short supply these days but it is great when it does happen, even at the expense of England. Now it may be too much for the West Indies to replicate this level of performance at Lords, but if they do and England are slightly off the boil, then there is absolutely an opportunity for them to really upset the apple cart. From Colin Grave’s point of view, that ‘mediocre’ comment that he made a couple of years must be seriously wrangling with him now and still could yet come back and bite him on the arse! See there is a silver lining in every cloud.

Oh and a final thought, I have noticed that Starsports have ‘won’ the right to pay over $2.5 billion dollars to host the TV rights to the whiter than white IPL for the next 5 years, with the equivalent of every ball during the event costing around £22,500 pounds per televised delivery. Obviously from this we can see why India were so desperate to screw over the associates and other smaller international nations for an extra $100 million slice of the international revenue rights. I’m waiting for the ‘BCCI crowdfunder’ campaign to kick off in earnest so we can all help those poor little mites at the BCCI survive on a day to day basis. As ever, the rich get richer, the poor get poorer and the fans are the ones who end up paying for it out of their own pocket. Plus ca change.

Anyway, as ever comments on the game below and let’s hope the rain stays away from Lords over the next few days (unless it involves the flooding of the members pavilion):