Cricket is a funny game sometimes. Yesterday, Sean had to write a report on a day where 18 wickets fell. Today, literally no wickets whatsoever. I’m not sure which I’d prefer, but it certainly wasn’t what I was expecting to write about when play started…
The day started with the West Indies enjoying a lead of 339 runs with 4 wickets remaining in their second innings, and England’s bowlers already fatigued after spending almost two full days in the field with no prospect of saving the game. Jason Holder and Shane Dowrich were the last decent batsmen left for the West Indies before their tail. This, together with their team’s commanding position in the game, gave them a license to attack England’s bowlers at will. They took advantage of this license, smashing Moeen, Rashid and Curran around the ground.
Holder and Dowrich coasted through the morning session without any alarms, adding another 110 to their team’s total in the process. Holder survived an LBW appeal soon after lunch from a Joe Root legspinner which, if England had any reviews left, would have been out. There were signs that the fielders were feeling the heat too, as Burns, Foakes and Buttler all missed chances to break the partnership. Eventually it was a personal milestone which ended the West Indies innings, with captain Jason Holder declaring after reaching his double century. The partnership totalled 295 runs in 411 balls and will have immensely pleased the West Indies fans, not to mention the WICB as they sell tickets for Day 4.
In an even more unlikely turn of events, the wicketless streak continued in England’s innings. Rory Burns scored freely whilst Jennings played defensively through to the close of play. They finished on 56-0, a mere 571 runs behind.
Today’s play will be used as ammunition to attack England’s bowlers, whilst completely ignoring the game situation. England’s bowlers were knackered after spending almost two full days in the field and in a position where they would certainly lose, whilst the West Indian batsmen had nothing to lose and played like it.
Adil Rashid will perhaps be the most vulnerable, having failed to take a wicket in this game and being by far the least economical English bowler (Not counting Jennings, who isn’t really a bowler). It was telling that Root bowled himself more than Rashid in the second inning, suggesting that the captain has lost faith in the leg spinner (if he had any to begin with). Rashid’s selection was presumably a reaction to the pitch, which appeared dry and mostly bare and many people expected to break up and spin sharply. Either England’s brains trust misread the pitch or failed to consider that their team might allow the West Indies to bat twice before Day 4, but there wasn’t much in the pitch for Rashid to work with. None of the three grounds England will be playing at in this series have been particularly spin-friendly in recent years, a fact which might cause some people to question Ed Smith’s wisdom since he selected three spinners in his squad. I don’t expect Rashid to play in the next two Tests, the question will be whether he will return to the Test team for the Ashes this summer. I hope he does, because Australians hate batting against spin.
The other bowler drawing a lot of fire is Sam Curran. Dropping him is more complicated, since he has been in very good form with the bat. In the 8 Tests he’s played for England, Sam Curran ranks third in terms of runs scored behind only Root and Buttler. His Test batting average is higher than Burns, Pope, Stoneman, Malan, Westley, Dawson, Jennings, Duckett, Vince, Hales and Lyth. In fact, Ben Foakes, Dom Bess and Haseeb Hameed (remember him?) are the only three English batsmen to have debuted since 2014 and have a higher batting average than Sam Curran. Even in England’s calamitous first innings, he was the second-highest runscorer with 14 runs. All that said, unless he’s batting in the top 6 it will be difficult to include him if England don’t rate him even as their fifth bowler.
Root’s tactics might also come under closer scrutiny after he chose to bowl Anderson and Stokes several times throughout the day. With no rest weeks between the three Tests, asking both bowlers to work so hard in a lost cause seems at best pointless, and at worst risks fatigue and injury later in the series.
Whilst England’s cause might seem lost, there are several players who might want to secure their place with a big score tomorrow. I wouldn’t put any money on them lasting all day though…
I wonder where all the commentators are who predicted that England would whitewash Windies.?
The index I developed ranks Curran behind Jennings. I will acknowledge that Curran has scored those points in less innings. Rashid and choosing people based on their white ball performance will be back in focus.
I think Foakes is a good keeper but England may be better off playing a specialist at 3 and have Baristow or Buttler keep. Buttler was the keeper of choice by ESPNcricinfo and Cricbuzz. The ICC chose Rishab Pant though.
It will be very difficult for England to save this match.
I wonder if Broad would have played if he did not get bitten by bed bugs. Would that have made a difference though?
Broad will play the next game, barring injury, but I wonder if he will be effective. He is tall and his natural length is similar to the West Indies’ bowlers, but I think he’s also quite a bit slower than them. The other pace options are Woakes and Wood. I think both prefer bowling full, which hasn’t worked well on this pitch. I fear England have no great bowling options on this pitch, if the West Indies perform this well in all three games.
West Indies have not won a series against major teams for quite some time. At the moment, they are only defending two drawn series against Sri Lanka and England at home. All the other most recent series against other opposition (home and away) they have lost. So I certainly would not write England off for the rest of the series.
Obviously there is some talent, but it is usually the specialist batsmen (#1 through 6) letting West Indies down. They have lasted just 50 balls on average last year, which is even worse than England.
As for England, they picked a team for the Test series in Sri Lanka. Utterly bizarre team selection, and I expect Rashid to get the chop. Never mind that it was the batsmen who failed, and a captain who refused to introduce him in the attack, until the horse had long bolted.
I think part of the problem for England is that they bat deep. There is no sense of responsibility among the top order, because they bat in the knowledge that 8, 9 and 10 are good enough to bail them out. Thus Moeen keeps getting picked because he can bat, but that may well result in less responsible batting by the top order. Pick a proper tail (ie. pick specialist bowlers – Leach, Broad, Anderson), and see if the specialist batsmen can be bothered to play tighter. If not, well, get rid of them. And if they do, you will have found a proper spinner, and can watch series without having to look at 80/4 in pretty much every other innings.
Intriguing argument. You’d hope that the sense of career self-preservation might override that, but you may well have a case. I’m going to have to wander off and think about it!
This assumes that there are much better batsman waiting in he wings to replace the existing top six.
For the last three years England have been trying to find an opener to partner Cook. Now they are looking for a steady number 1,2,& 3. There is no competion for places because the cupboard is bare. That’s why Cook stayed in the team for the last two years despite mostly a famine of decent scores.
My hunch is if you just picked bowlers who can’t bat you would see a lot more 77 all out scores.
I am sure they are decent batsmen. If not, how come they score quite a few runs for their counties?
And as much as the county championship is marginalised, that also means that the batsmen who do score runs don’t do it only on flat wickets. County sides usually don’t bat as deep as England do.
Batting is about partnerships. It may be stating the obvious, but it really is. The reason why all the openers failed, is because they had to bat with Cook. Honestly, I would not be surprised if England could get a decent opening partnership by putting two of the discards in (assuming they have not fallen off the cliff like Haseeb Hameed has). Batting becomes so much easier if you are not facing a lot of stress because of the guy at the other end (and that definitely seems to have played its part in the Cook – Other partnerships). That is also one of the reasons that some batsmen are great with the tail, other simply atrocious.
Cricket is a mental game. As a batsman the mindset must be strong with a bit of ego, of “I am getting these runs”, not “we will be getting these runs”, because then invariably you will shrug off failure after failure, and then insist on keep getting picked for the one in 15 times that it does come off.
For all his faults, Pietersen was obsessive about his game, looking for ways to improve, time and again. Can’t really see any evidence of that with the current lot.
Yeah. One common theme is that English batsmen don’t seem to progress once they’re in the team. No one expects a debutant to be a confident Test batsman, but you might think that they’d improve as they become accustomed to the speed of the game, the added scrutiny, etc. Whether it’s coaching, the team environment or the selection policy, no one seems to kick on and actually secure their place in the team.
Sure there are other batsman, but I don’t think there are the numbers of quality batsman in county cricket. Non of them are pulling up trees, and saying “pick me, pick me, pick me,” by weight of runs.
I agree that batting with Cook at the last two years was not ideal, but a self determined batsman who wanted to make a top level career should not let that bother him.
I won’t even get into the issue of country cricket not playing at the most bating friendly time of the summer because of endless 20/20 ODI cricket. There was a heat wave last year for about two months in June July and no county cricket took place during that time.
Uh, what batting is Moeen providing if he bats like this? It is almost as if he is saying: “please pick Leach.”
Yeah. At the very least, in this form he should be batting behind Foakes and Curran.
I agree, His shot was dreadful, but the point I’m making is there is no pressure on these players because of a lack of alternatives.
Mo was dropped not long ago, but is now back in.
Same old, same old.
Toothless attack, batsmen vulnerable to actual high talent bowling (real pace/spin etc) as much as high quality bowling.
In effect, we’ve been playing home matches on pitches that would attract a points penalty and a fine in County Cricket and using it to disguise that we don’t know how to play on better pitches.
Yes, it’s structural too, CC pushed to the margins, so mostly played on spicy green pitches in May or Sept.
Openers… reaping the rewards of giving Cook 3 years too long, so we wasted match after match that could have been used on looking at options.
Bairstow – I’m a big fan, but he’s not who you want coming out at 3 when the openers have failed,
Root – quality batsman, but he can’t carry a side all the time. (And yes he’s not turned out as good as some others in his generation in other countries, but them’s the breaks, he’s still pretty much the best available for his slot).
Stokes/Buttler/Ali – all dashers – sometimes they’ll all fail, which does make you wonder if 3 of them is the right move, or 2 plus someone steadier would help… but… of course that also runs into the question of bowling choices.
Foakes – Not sure. Just not sure.
Bowling – out of respect for the fact that the batting lost this Test I won’t go over this again, but really we need to commit to finding someone who can cope with this kind of pitch and selecting them regularly.
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Lots of valid points, although I’m a Foakes fan.
I just had a quick scan through cricinfo, looking at the scores of our batsmen over the past couple of years. Not very impressive. Root has two centuries in 18 months. Bairstow, Buttler, Stokes – not nearly good enough at making big scores. Is Ramprakash really the best batting coach we can find? Would Buttler start getting some centuries if he was threatened with the axe?
Definitely agree about the failure to find openers. I’ve long thought it short sighted to always pick a safe side which the selectors believe will win series. One plus point at the moment is that Curran, Foakes, Burns and hopefully Leach are getting valuable experience- rather an important attribute. If England come home, losing the series but with these guys becoming better players, I’ll be happy.
Fair point on gaining experience over winning every match. I think I’d be much calmer about the batting if we’d lost but looked like learning from our mistakes.
Foakes, I’m not against him, but I haven’t seen enough to be for him, if you see what I mean. Hence “not sure.” It’s unfair but I think in this team if he’s going to be WK he needs to develop some more Brigadier Block about him as the rest of the team is very much oriented the other way.
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Wickets seem to fall on the days England are batting.
Get in! There’s your part-time spinner and a part-time keeper.
Even though the England team talked the talk about respect and taking the West Indies seriously, the media talk about easy wins must have had some effect on the mentality of the players.