There is an old adage to never judge a pitch until England have collapsed on it and Day 2 of this Test showed that these words still ring true after all these years. In fact it’s a close run thing whether it took me longer to write this post than England managed to survive against the West Indian bowling attack.
If Day 1 was one of those days that momentum shifted back and forward between both teams, then Day 2 offered the exact opposite, this was a procession for the West Indies bowlers and another humiliating and inept batting display by the England batting unit. There was much talk at the end of play around whether England picked the right team for the Test or whether they might have got away with one yesterday; however the answers to both of the above question were soon answered as an emphatic No as the West Indies blew our batting away within 30 overs through a good performance from their seam attack. In normal circumstances, bowling the West Indies out for 289 after they had opted to bat first would seem to be a decent result; however the way that England’s bowling attack looked so toothless up until Tea and then coupled with the fact that Jimmy and Stokes got the ball to seriously talk after tea all seemed to add up to the fact that the selectors and/or Root had blown another big call. I’ve mentioned a number of times that I am a huge Sam Curran fan but he is not (and I doubt will ever be) an opening bowler at Test Level certainly compared to a senior England bowler with the height to trouble the batsmen on a slightly uneven pitch and over 430 wickets in the locker.
The fact that the West Indies had gone into this Test with only a part-time spinner should have also raised alarm, as I would generally back the home team to understand their own conditions than the touring team. It very quickly soon became clear that 2 spinners was an unwanted luxury on this pitch, coupled with the fact that the one spin bowler they didn’t pick was the one I’d have picked myself as having a spinner in the side that concedes on average 4.5 an over and regularly lets the batsmen rotate the strike is less than ideal. It’s not rocket science to observe that the West Indians first innings score of 289 is by no means a massive score and in many way shouldn’t have been close to match winning one. However when you factor in England’s ability to collapse in a total heap in the first game of many an away series alongside the fact that the selectors felt they had to pick a number of all-rounders to make up for the frailty of the specialist batsmen, alarm bells should have been ringing loud and clear at the end of Day 1. Day 2 only managed to confirm our worst fears.
England did what they needed to do in wrapping up the tail with minimum fuss this morning, with Stokes bagging his fourth and Jimmy bagging his first 5fer of the winter. So in the absence of any annoying tail-end stands, it was down to England’s openers to bat sensibly and get England off to a good start. There naturally has been a strong focus on the opening slots with the retirement of the ‘chosen one’ and the revolving door that has been at the other end with discarded opener after discarded opener. With both Jennings and Burns having a solid Test Series in Sri Lanka, this was now the chance to further their cause on a pitch away from the sub-continent against a lively new ball attack and to reward the selectors with their selections. Sadly, maybe even predictably, this was not the case. Jennings got a start before lazily wafting at a wide ball from Holder and Burns didn’t seem to be switched on straight after lunch, when he played at an innocuous Roach delivery with an angled bat which then rolled back to hit the stumps. Naturally this was not the start that neither the opening batsmen nor the England team wanted and it did very little to suggest that these players might not be best suited to opening in Test Cricket. Sure this is very early in the series, but neither batsmen should be happy or proud in the way they got out and there will need to be a marked improvement if England aren’t going to be heading into a home Ashes series with either one or two major question marks around our opening batsmen.
If there was a major disappointment in how both openers fared, then this disappointment soon turned to outright alarm with both Bairstow and Root following both openers back into the changing room in quick time. Bairstow might count himself a little unlucky after being bowled after being struck on his elbow, though this doesn’t take away from the fact that Bairstow is hearing the death rattle of stumps being struck far too often for a top order batsman, whilst Root never looked settled and was undone LBW by a great delivery from Holder that originally looked like it may have done too much but would have ended up canoning into leg stump. England’s soft underbelly was being exposed again by a good, but no means top class bowling unit and the lower middle order once again had a massive job to do to rescue England’s ailing top order. This time though the lower order could bail out England’s underachieving batsmen, with Stokes, Buttler & Foakes all falling cheaply and Moeen trying his best to win the ‘worst shot of the day’ competition with the sort of shot that genuinely gives club players the shivers. By this time outright alarm had turned to blind panic with none of England’s batsmen able to hold up an end, rein in their shot making and play for time until the ball got softer, after all, this is the aggressive model that the captain wants his team to play with, which is admirable unless you’re 61 – 8 and staring down the barrel. The West Indies eventually took the final 2 wickets to reduce England to 77 all out, another humiliating collapse to add to the record books. It’s only a shame that they didn’t put England back in to follow on as we might have all got the day off tomorrow, though naturally my one crumb of comfort is that Danny will now have to write a review of tomorrow’s play.
Naturally praise has to go to the West Indies pace attack who bowled quickly and put the ball in good areas, but this is no West Indies bowling attack of the 80’s. Kemar Roach is hardly Malcolm Marshall nor is Holder the reincarnation of Courtney Walsh and the pitch certainly isn’t Sabina Park 1998. Yes the West Indies bowled well and credit must go to them for that, but the English batsmen looked unsure about which way up to hold the bat let alone look like actually score some runs. I’m sure the players and management will be quick with the excuses that they hadn’t had enough time in the middle (well make time then by touring longer) or that the West Indies had the best conditions to bat in, but again this is no excuse. This happens time and time again at the start of England’s away tours, one only has to look back a year ago, when we were bundled out for 58 in New Zealand. Sure they’ll be talk about ‘accountability’ and ‘putting right a wrong’ but it’s the same empty rhetoric that is employed after every dreadful batting performance. Nothing ever changes except maybe the standard response bowler being dropped for the next game. Personally I’m just thankful that I have little attachment to this team. In the past I’d have been incredibly annoyed perhaps even raging at this performance, now I find it almost amusing although I would emphasize the word ‘almost’.
At the close of play, West Indies extended their lead to 350, mainly down to the fact that their board wants to protect their Day 3 revenue rather than put England’s inept team to the sword and risk a 2-day defeat. Mind you, perhaps this wasn’t completely communicated to the West Indies batsmen who batted like they had a hot potato in one hand and an important round of golf to attend tomorrow afternoon in the back of their minds. This strange approach from the West Indies batting unit allowed Moeen to add a few junk wickets to his tally and to boost his average with the ball to once again enhance the pretence that he is a Test class bowler or even an international class all-rounder (as a FYI, he is averaging a tad over 11 with the bat this winter). Sadly, once again this was way after the horse had bolted.
England may have a statistical chance of chasing down a score under 400 in the fourth innings, if England can skittle the West Indies tomorrow morning. In reality though, this game is over after 2 days and what a soul-crushing defeat it will be. It just comes down to when the West Indies fancy putting England and their long-suffering fans out of their misery once again.
This might be a little more a ramble than I thought it was going to be, so please feel free to add a few more insightful comments below:
I sympathise with your inane ramble. At the start of the day, Nasser was rambling on TV with England are no 1 ODI team, no 3 Test team – “they’re not doing much wrong”. Lots of madness around.
I find it amusing that there’s been plenty of debate over the bowlers selected, when the batsmen made that debate irrelevant.
Fingers crossed that the West Indies could be rising again.
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It seems pretty clear they should have gone with one spinner, but given the batting failings, it’s rather moot. Likewise, Curran as frontline bowler… looks like a mistake.
As for the batting, not a lot to add to every other tour I’ve been writing about this.
Massively undercooked – blame the ECB. Massively irresponsible top order shot making – blame the batting coach, but also the players.
Roach has enough pace to be trouble – but it’s not a surprise, he’s not a debutant.
You don’t have to be Brigadier Block, KP (remember him?) would often take bowlers on.
But you do have to have a plausible plan and concentrate.
Exactly, not exactly rocker science but well beyond this England team and management..
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Anyone who listened to the gentle touch Ian Ward interview with Harrison in the lunch interval would have been struck by how great everything is. Harrison lauding all our teams. The Hundred will make the game more accessible. The team culture will stop stokes lamping someone. Then Hussain blamed the dearth of kids coming through on old fogeys in club cricket blocking the tyros who don’t want to play friendlies. As if the recreational game is a bigger problem than no test cricket on free to view.
Damn. As I was never going to be a pro I should never have bothered playing. Stuff me for wanting to play something I enjoyed.
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I know of no other sport that hates it’s fans more than cricket. Even old club cricketers are to be blamed. Nasser has long since jumped the shark.
Even if you view them as customers and not fans I can’t think of a business that so hates it’s existing customers. And tells them so to their their face that they can’t wait to get new customers.
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I guess the point about Broad’s non-selection is less about what difference he would have made (possibly a fair bit bowling) and more about it being evidence of muddled thinking.
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I am sure with his newly remodelled bowling action and run up. He would have pitched the ball a foot outside off stump and bowled dry… No point changing anything if you can’t change what’s between his ears.
I have maintained for many years that this modern England team would have performed very badly against some of the very good fast bowling attacks of the past.
Johnson in 2014 blew England apart. And even in 2011, Cooks greatest tour when the Aussies got their attack on the Park in Perth they blew England away.
Cooks claim a few years ago that this is as good a standard as ever is idiocy. Had he played in the 1990s never mind some of the great fast bowlers before the he wouldn’t have got half the runs he made in the last ten years.
This is the age of 20/20 techniques, and why the ECB want to go all out in that direction.
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I’d be very intrigued to know if any contributers to this site believe that any of the current England top three have a better, tighter defensive technique than the man deemed inferior to Sam Curran for the number nine spot for this game, Chris Woakes? (Knowing as I do that he is far from popular in these parts)
I had my doubts about Burns. Jennings does little for me when the wicket isn’t dead. Bairstow is an enigma. Woakes is a decent player. What we lack is a consistent run scorer outside of Root. I liked how we played in Sri Lanka. But keep playing like that and you’ll come unstuck.
Is Woakes unpopular? Not really noticed.
I might have a bit of a beef with Woakes as he blocked me on Twitter for no reason…..
When you say no reason, are you excluding the monumental kicking you were giving him at the time? 😀
I wasn’t able to follow the day’s play and only became aware of England’s collapse about 30 mins. ago. “You’re effing joking!” I exclaimed as I stared at the score card. It was merely a moment of disbelief though, quickly dispelled by recalling that just such a “bad day at the office” seems to have become a bit of a feature on recent tours. About another five seconds after that thought hit me I acknowledged to myself that I really can’t get worked up about this nonsense anymore.
We’ve seen it all before: Pick the wrong bowling attack and go into a Test match with undercooked batsmen who do a convincing impression of people who don’t want to be there and who respond to the loss of a couple of early wickets not by knuckling but by playing suicide cricket. If the definition of madness is doing the same thing over and over and expecting different results, what does that say about the collective sanity of Team ECB?
With regard to Mark’s point above, I like to take every relevant opportunity to mention that, in 1990, Robin Smith batted on this ground for a total of 102 runs (once out) off 396 balls, in fourteen minutes short of ten hours at the crease over two innings. He was facing Malcolm Marshall, Curtly Ambrose, Ian Bishop and Ezra Moseley – a little known bowler, but one who broke Graham Gooch’s hand in the previous match and in doing so probably turned the series, with a little help from shithouse captaincy and weather.
In the first innings Allan Lamb made 119 of 224 balls in five and a half hours, and in the second Jack Russell made 55 off 238 balls in five hours. Smith and Russell were about half an hour from the rain which would have saved the match and ensured a drawn series, when an all-time great bowler finished it off with what would remain his best Test figures.
But…. it’s good to know that in the 1990s England were just shit and that the standard of Test cricket is so much higher now.
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In case there are 90s children and hipsters reading this who don’t believe me:
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Arron, I know you’re good with statsguru etc, can you work out what the average length of innings has been for England’s top six over the years? Is that possible to do?
If so I wouldn’t know how – I think SimonH was the real expert. My shenanigans in 2015, proving that Cook’s home Ashes record was one of the worst for England since WW1, represented the peak of my abilities.
Damn. I might tweet it and see if anyone can work it out then.
Does not seem to be possible to do that on the basis of the number of balls faced. Which would be quite interesting
Over all figures are here, since 2005. Worryingly, since 2016 (3 full years), there have been just 2 tons scored by England batsmen when England lost the toss (including the 244* in the Ashes down under). The other was a 110 by Root in Johannesburg, 2016. So pretty much the stats suggest that England batsmen are almost giving up when they lose the toss.
It can be sorted by balls faced:
Problem is of course that you still have to do the math for how long the average innings lasts by dividing the number of balls faced by the number of times the batsmen got out.
2016: 12402 / 181 = 68.5 balls per completed innings.
2017: 8234 / 114 = 72.2 balls per completed innings
2018: 8563 / 142 = 60.3 balls per completed innings.
2009 and 2010 were by far the best years for English batting, averaging about 86.8 and 87.3 balls per dismissal for a top-six batsman.
Genuinely don’t think Statsguru can do that. I’ve played about with the site quite a lot and it’s actually pretty limited in what you can search for. I think you’d need to have one of the subscription based stats sites to be able to get that.
I well remember Robin Smith and Alan Lambs innings. And I remember Jack Russell batting for hours to try and save the game. Mike Athertons duels with Alan Donald as well as other great brave performances.
Yet the so called experts who are stealing a living on BBC and Sky would have you believe this is as good as it gets. I can’t except that. I will concede that the attacking cricket we see is off the scale of anything we have seen in the past. 300 was seen as a big ODI score thirty years ago.
Modern batsman don’t see really fast bowling much these days in county cricket. And their techiniques are honed for attacking stroke play.
Also, if the administrators keep cheating the public by having no meaningful preparation then this what you get. It’s almost as if they want to kill off test cricket. Or at least 5 day test cricket.
Expect England to chase these runs down now. They are used to big ODI scores and that’s how they will play. If it comes off they might get them. What was the phrase? Oh yes….”it’s the way I play.” Remember when that was a hanging offence?
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A stat that interests probably only me. England have not had an individual score in excess of 150 since Melbourne 2017 by Cook.
England played 12 test matches in 2018 without a score over 150.
It was the first year since 2000 that England did not have a batsman make 150. I think we played 10 matches in that period.
1999 is the only other year since Sky started broadcasting when an England batsman failed to make 150. I think we played 8 matches then.
Best years? 2005, 2010 and 2011 with 7 each.
Some might say that this is because pitches are more bowler friendly, but really, batting is at a low ebb pretty much everywhere at the moment.
I was there for that match! Remember it well. Almost held on for the draw. Russell got a shooter. Iffy home umpiring. Also went to decider at Antigua when England were mentally shot. Great series though. We were supposed to have got hammered. Nasser and Alec Stewart made their debuts. Might have won the second test but for the weather and touch of gamesmanship from the hosts
It is still my favourite overseas Test series involving England, apart from 2004/05 in SA. Every Test had real depth and a fascinating narrative – even Antigua was interesting purely for being a return to what everyone expected from the start. I listened to every minute I could on the radio (it’s when I discovered the late great Tony Cozier) in between my first job and A-level homework. Even now I’ve barely seen any TV footage, except Malcolm’s Exocet to run out Greenidge in Kingston, and the Viv Richards/Rob Bailey thing at Bridgetown. And yet it lives so vividly in my memory and imagination. It was by turns absurd, glorious, enraging, enervating, riveting, utterly heartbreaking and in the end depressingly predictable.
I hope one day someone writes a book that does justice to it.
Slightly surprised at the lack of comment about the West Indies (I absolutely refuse to call them Windies) decision to enforce the follow on. I know it’s the modern way not to enforce as captains don’t fancy chasing even a small total batting last but come on if there was ever a time make a team follow on it was yesterday. 77 all out in 30 overs England demoralised the bowlers still relatively fresh.I was always told in that situation to do what the opposition would least want and I can’t imagine Burns, Jennings and the rest would have fancied going back out to face the music. Of course there is the cynical viewpoint that by batting again West Indies increased the chances of the game lasting at least until the 4th day (and thereby helping to swell their board’s shrinking coffers) but that can’t be the case…can it?
Always been a rule of thumb for me. If time is not an issue, then never enforce the follow-on. It’s realistically the only way you can lose the game.
The only reason to enforce the follow-on is to stop declaration speculation, which is tedious, dull and always spouted off about by failed captains who wouldn’t risk anything in those situations.
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To add to the above reply, I’m not sure I’d say what England wanted least was to bat again. Having to go out and bowl again a mere 30 overs after they’d slogged their guts out would be pretty soul destroying, and the glares from the bowlers to the batsmen would be exactly what the West Indies want too.
No one wants to be ground into the dust. England are being ground into the dust.
Fair point. My point of view is probably influenced by being a long retired opening bat. Given yesterday’s position I would have much preferred to go out and stand in the slips for a couple of hours rather than take guard again.
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Agree with you there, They are the West Indies. Always have been always will be. Windies is just a nickname. Australia wil change their name to Aussies next!
They have a board there too and there are likewise consequences for ticket sales, vendors, and so on. Keeping plenty of play on day 4 is probably significant to someone.
And since a lot of the best players, this is their home ground – well, it’s really probably pretty important that Roach got 5 and Holder got a double and so on.
This does rely on England batting better second time around…
I’m imagining that Adil can rest his legs for the limited overs stuff after this game.
Genuine question. If a KP or Root like talent came along, with the ability to average 50, but not be an opening bat, who would England drop?
They would either…
(1) Force him to open the batting, and numerous pundits would immediately line up to tell us it won’t be a problem.
(2) Drop a bowler. Which is their profered option for most things.
(3) Force new batsman to try and keep wicket even if he can’t catch.
Rob Smyth says this:
“54th over: West Indies 203-6 (Dowrich 49, Holder 58) I’ve a hunch this might be Adil Rashid’s last Test. He comes into the attack and is immediately launched for six by Holder. Poor Rashid’s match figures are 20-1-80-0.”
And I have to say it pisses me off a bit:
As of this moment SCurran’s figures are 24 overs, 98 runs, 1 wicket.
Can someone explain to me?
You won’t get a rational explanation… or at least not a rational justification. It isn’t about reason, but you knew that already.
Remember his card has been marked by the media. He’s also too fragile to play Test cricket. It’s all bollocks as we know, but many of the media are unable to form an independent opinion.
They are not paid to give independent opinions.
All that “access” comes at a price.
Sent a comment on England’s batting travails. Not sure if it has gone through, or if I am yet again blocked by WordPress.
Let’s just say, the stats make for dismal reading. Not as bad as Australia last year (having Pat Cummins as the best batsman in a series is pretty bad), but not that far off.
Went into spam for some reason. I’ve cleared it now.
Pretty sure I posted another comment (but it may have ended up in spam again). It is possible to sort by the number of balls faced.
For the top six:
Highlights from a batting perspective were 2009 and 2010, where England top 6 batsmen lasted on average 86.7 and 87.7 balls (per dismissal).
The figures for the last three years
2016: 68.5 balls
2017: 72.2 balls
2018: 60.3 balls
The pacesetters in 2018 were New Zealand, with 95.9 balls per dismissal. Most other teams are in the mid-sixties, while Zimbabwe (just 2 Tests) average nearly 80 balls per dismissal, and West Indies and Bangladesh were in the low 50s.
You did. I released it. I’m not sure why you keep goIng to spam, it’s anything but deliberate. Are you using a VPN?
No, I am not using a VPN. But my last post came through without a hitch (and I don’t think you needed to approve it). So as long as I don’t post links and don’t post with an apostrophe in my username, it goes through without a hitch. Maybe I should have shortened the URL (which kind of defeats the purpose if it ends up in spam, because you can’t see from a shortened URL what it is linking to).
Still not sure why the apostrophe in my normal username seems to be an issue. Obviously that is a WordPress issue.
I don’t know. You often go into moderation, and I don’t have a clue why. The VPN possibility was something I thought possible. But I guess not.
Genuinely don’t know. We get there when we can to release comments if they’re blocked. Believe me, if we had a clue why, we’d solve it.
I always use VPN. Doesn’t give me a problem here
We get some people who routinely go into pre-mod. It’s not our doing and we don’t know why it happens. And now you’ve removed one of the things we wondered about!
Wow! Not seen anything about the cricket at all today. Just got in TV on and 367-6, centuries apiece Dowrich and Holder. Wow!
As was noted on a message board in the Caribbean, Holder’s double was ‘good enough to end the shutdown’…