West Indies vs England: 3rd Test Preview

It’s been a busy old week for the site, and Sean’s piece about the ECB, the Test team and the county set up has attracted lots of deserved attention.  For those yet to read it, it can be found here .

For England, there is the small matter of a Test match in St Lucia to deal with.  Having been comprehensively walloped in the first two Tests, England will go to St Lucia knowing it is likely to be the quickest pitch of the series, as the hosts finally appear to have realised that playing to their strengths reaps dividends, especially against teams who have shown a marked dislike for pace and bounce.  Whether it is as uneven as the Antigua surface is to some extent beside the point, England have struggled badly on perfectly flat quick, bouncy pitches in recent times, and the insistence of the ECB on producing slow, low tracks at home, allied with the pushing to the margins of the red ball county game mean it is hardly surprising that England batsmen react as if stung by a wasp when they come across bounce and pace.  Still, that’s no kind of excuse, given it’s entirely of their own doing in the first place, and the lack of preparation – or more specifically the apparent preparation and selection for the kinds of pitches seen in years past are a failure of planning that hasn’t attracted as much attention as it should have.  England’s first Test selection was utterly wrong, and how they got it that wrong should receive more scrutiny, beyond simply blaming captain and coach.

This time around, they at least don’t have to deal with trying to bowl to Jason Holder for a day at a time, banned as he is from the match for a slow over rate.  There has been much sympathy for him, but in principle the decision is fair enough – it is the lack of consistency that is the problem.  However, it needs to be said that much noise concerning slow over rates comes from the likes of us, while anecdotally, it can’t be said that it is a pressing concern for most, which perhaps puts us as outliers.

To replace him, the West Indies have called up an all rounder in Keemo Paul as a direct replacement, and another fast bowler in Oshane Thomas.  Which they go with will say a lot about how fragile they believe England to be after their previous drubbings.

For England, unless injury forces a change from Stokes and Foakes, if they do change anything it is most likely to be to bring in Mark Wood, who whatever his shortcomings in his career to date, and injury has plagued him, is certainly the only member of the squad who might have the pace to match the West Indians.  It really is like being back in 1985 – all we need is for someone to talk about meeting fire with fire.  If this is what England go with, the player at most risk is Sam Curran, keeping up the fine tradition of England replacing a bowler when the batsmen fail.  Wood himself directly commented on that, in a delightfully off message observation that will not have endeared him to the England hierarchy.

“I think I’ve got a chance. It’s very harsh to leave a bowler out when it’s the batting that’s failed but that always seems to be the case, doesn’t it?”

Optimism is in short supply, but it is always possible that England will have learned some lessons from the series to date.  Perhaps they’ll bat more responsibly, and not assume they are in a one day international.  Perhaps they’ll consider occupation of the crease to be a valid aim.  Perhaps they’ll bowl to do more than try and invite the kinds of reckless shots that England batsmen make.  But the evidence to date suggests it unlikely.  Still, that’s the beauty of sport.

The absence of Holder would make any England win slightly hollow, and it could be argued that for England to really look properly at what has happened on this tour and why they need to be resoundingly beaten so no one can try and look for the positives.  Yet the ECB in recent years seem to care not a jot for reverses (away Ashes whitewashes are brushed off as being of little consequence, especially when they can’t blame the same person again) , content to win mostly at home and occasionally away if playing an understrength opponent.  This tour will be forgotten quickly when the World Cup comes around, though that does highlight the importance of England winning it to remotely justify the sidelining of the Test team, and the selection of a near on one day batting line up in the Test arena.  2019 does have the potential for the ECB to claim all is well and pat themselves on the back for their brilliance, but there will undoubtedly now be a few nervous glances over a shoulder or two at Lord’s, and so there should be.  It’s been a high stakes gamble, one which requires everything for the remainder of this year to go right .  The problem is that their concern is on the basis of how it reflects on their strategy, not a care about the game of cricket as a reason in itself.

None of this should be a surprise to anyone.  It still isn’t that England are an awful team – faced with friendly conditions they are a match for anyone.  But they have been found out away from home, and their limited approach does not serve them well in alien surrounds.  Whoever would have predicted that?



30 thoughts on “West Indies vs England: 3rd Test Preview

  1. thebogfather Feb 8, 2019 / 3:53 pm

    The 9th of February…

    Something more important and ever relevant than the latest edition of the TeamECBSky omnishambles will be remembered…



    • thelegglance Feb 8, 2019 / 3:55 pm

      We haven’t forgotten. This preview goes up now precisely because we haven’t forgotten!

      Liked by 1 person

      • oreston Feb 8, 2019 / 7:59 pm

        Nah. Jim Laker’s. He would’ve been 97.


  2. Mark Feb 8, 2019 / 5:23 pm

    I’d love to see fast, bouncy, but consistent pitches make a come back. It would help to bring back fast bowling.

    Love to see 20/20 and ODI cricket played on some of those quick surfaces instead of the feather beds that will be created for the World Cup.

    Instead of messing about with 16.4, and abolishing the LBW law, and six ball overs bring back genuinely quick bowling. It’s a sight to see.

    Not going to happen. People prefer to see cricket played like basketball with high scoring with balls going for four and six every over.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Benny Feb 8, 2019 / 6:26 pm

      I agree. Some of the most enthralling sights in cricket have been provided by Lillee, Hadlee, Donald, Steyn, Marshall, Harmison, Flintoff to Gilchrist, Broad (on a good day) and many more. Maybe it’s because I used to be a bowler. I rather enjoyed Antigua because of the bowling.

      Four and six every over are not as gripping as the occasional one, since then it feels like you’ve seen something special.

      Still what do I know?

      Liked by 2 people

  3. dArthez Feb 8, 2019 / 8:36 pm

    Chandimal made Sri Lanka not take to the field for two hours in a Test against the West Indies. He was suspended for one Test for ball-tampering! Not for a terrible overrate! (And clearly the batmsne were ready to play, so a refusal to play should be reflected in overrate calculations) Somehow I doubt that Sri Lanka actually had a decent overrate (I think they were just 24 overs short for the day on Day 3). So this whole concern for the punter is not reflected in the ICC’s stance on poor overrates. So what are they for?

    Actually the overrate offenses ARE ridiculous. You get banned for not bowling a spinner for 3 overs, despite 2 full days of play being unused (and let’s be honest, bowling Chase for 3 overs would not have made a substantial difference to the result in the second Test), but overrate offenses caused by batsmen (eg. asking for a glove change after every ball being bowled, in an effort to try and save a Test) are a-okay with the ICC. I have yet to hear of a batting captain to be banned for such shenanigans.

    Overrate offenses as they are currently calculated are farcical. DRS referrals get subtracted. Fine, because clearly the time taken by the umpires to arrive at a decision is time the fielding side has to wait before they can deliver the next ball. But if you are waiting 15 minutes for a decision (eg. Kallis in 2012 for instance), the fast bowler gets plenty of time to recover, thus effectively, subsidising the overrate due to the calculation method.

    Seriously, if one can reasonably argue that a slightly poorer overrate has had no impact whatsoever on the result (eg. 180 overs being unused might give that away), overrate offenses are far less inconsequential than constant asking for new gloves, bats, pads, and what not – and for the second such instance in an innings a captain should get a single demerit point, and 3 demerit points for every bloody occurrence thereafter. Save a damn Test by playing cricket, not by wasting time. And if that means a captain has to fork out three times his playing fee in a fine levied by the ICC, so be it.

    Oh and for the love of god, can we severely limit the use of substitute fielders? Substitute fielders are allowed, but that means that whoever they replace cannot come back to bowl again in the innings (oh and in case of claimed illness, an independent doctor’s note to certify just that – because otherwise you might as well drug up the batsmen like in cycling, as happens when team doctors are willing to prescribe just about anything to improve performance), and has to bat at 7 or below. Because it is massively abused to get specialist fielders on the pitch (the one thing Jennings is good for), or to discuss tactics and strategies with the coaches DURING play.


    • thelegglance Feb 8, 2019 / 8:41 pm

      The one bit I’d take issue with there is the idea that it’s about not bowling a spinner for a few overs. That implies it’s not possible to bowl 15 overs an hour with seamers, and I’m not having that. It is – because teams do it when they have to, such as when they’re trying to get through overs quickly in pursuit of victory.
      The sheer amount of faffing around that goes unchivvied is ridiculous.


      • dArthez Feb 8, 2019 / 10:40 pm

        No disagreement there. Just saying that 3 overs of spin would probably have been enough to have a “good overrate”. And then of course we would not be talking about suspensions for poor overrate.

        And again, we had a result in three days. Would the ICC have been happier if it was done by Tea Day 3, with a better overrate? Actually, that would DECREASE the value of the broadcasting rights in all likelihood …


        • thelegglance Feb 8, 2019 / 10:42 pm

          I do think this is one of those things the core support get exercised about, while most who go don’t care. I mean, I care, but when I talk to others when at a day’s play, they just don’t give a monkey’s. Are we the ones out of kilter? We might well be.
          Certainly true that the objections back home were far stronger than in the ground, where spectators just had a good time.


          • dannycricket Feb 8, 2019 / 11:06 pm

            The way forward is clear: Every time England fail to make their over rate, the ECB have to send every England supporter a bottle of rum. Then they won’t care either…


  4. Rpoultz Feb 8, 2019 / 10:35 pm

    Sorry to be off topic here but Agnew continues his nauseating fawning over the deer killer cook. This is surely a piss take of the highest order….man cannot have any self respect or dignity?


    • thelegglance Feb 8, 2019 / 10:37 pm

      Entirely anecdotal and subject to confirmation bias, but for the 2nd Test, the contempt from those I spoke to was rather striking.

      Liked by 1 person

      • rpoultz Feb 8, 2019 / 10:59 pm

        I have no issue if they are friends of course but Agnew and his continuing BS about being impartial is sickening.

        Liked by 2 people

      • Mark Feb 9, 2019 / 12:37 am

        Old man from Leicestershire admits he always now takes his care assistant with him on his Saga cruises these days.

        He says ……”Sometimes I get a bit forgetful, and nurse Alan pops my teeth back in for me…..People ask me if nurse Alan is my son, no, he’s just very helpful…….I couldn’t go alone anymore so Nurse Alan allows me to still take nice holidays…..”


      • dlpthomas Feb 9, 2019 / 2:50 pm

        Cook looks like he’s got the mumps.


    • LordCanisLupus Feb 9, 2019 / 11:19 am

      This line amused me from Paul Newman’s write-up of the total confusion…

      This has become a huge test of the quality and gumption of England and captain Joe Root, whose batting form has slumped so alarmingly that he needs to prove he is capable of coping with the demands of leadership.

      Ah yes. No “learning as captain” two years into the gig for Joe. No ignoring the lack of big scores despite Joe making two centuries in the last six tests. No. Not at all.

      Then this…

      Root may have received two unplayable deliveries in Antigua but he is averaging 42 as captain while he peaked at 52 before succeeding Sir Alastair Cook.

      It’s harsh, but you went into bat for someone, and when the same arguments have to apply to another, you are going to struggle to justify them using logic. Never mind.

      Liked by 2 people

      • LordCanisLupus Feb 9, 2019 / 11:51 am

        Then also found this interesting…

        Cook has a chance to say that this all looks totally muddled, which it is, but is covered by “it’s not ideal”. There’s the “only the Ashes really counts” implication, which fair play to Cook he says “it’s important to win a game of cricket”, but there’s a dearth of real comment from a man who really does know the game inside out, whether we like it or not. Calling our numbers 7 and 8 a powerhouse is a bit daft too. I’m not looking for Cook to go all Michael Vaughan or Geoff Boycott, but there is some scope to not be cautious.

        I want to give him a chance, I really do.


        • thelegglance Feb 9, 2019 / 12:11 pm

          Irrespective of who it is, it’s always a bit tough to go straight from playing to commenting. They don’t want to be critical of their mates. So whether it be Cook or anyone else, the cautiousness doesn’t surprise me at all. They all start off that way.


          • LordCanisLupus Feb 9, 2019 / 12:26 pm

            Fair enough that he’s feeling his way into the role. But this particular issue isn’t criticising his mates, if he needs to do it? It’s selection policy. I know how touchy this mob are, but really.

            As I said, I think he has a lot to offer. We sorely need someone like Ricky Ponting (a Mike Atherton type) coming through on the broadcasting side who prefers substance over style, analysis over shock (where Nasser seems to be heading).

            Liked by 1 person

          • thelegglance Feb 9, 2019 / 12:39 pm

            He’s apparently doing a media course with the BBC, so he obviously wants to go down this route. But he does need to develop more than just the current platitudes, that’s for sure.


          • Mark Feb 9, 2019 / 1:05 pm

            Are you two going soft in your young age? 😉

            “I want to give him a chance, I really do.”……. Really? I don’t. A spoiled brat who has yet again fallen on his feet.

            This is precisely why the obsession, OBSESSION for hiring newly retired ex players as pundits is such a sack of sh**. Not only that but the likes of Atherton and Nasser had way more about them than Cook. Unfortunately Nasser has got worse as he has gone on becoming a pro ECB bore. (His choice) At no point do broadcasters ever consider if the particular person has the right personality and voice for, er, you know…..BROADCASTING. If he is an ex player, and certainly an ex captain he gets the job.

            Cook never had anything remotely interesting to say as captain or as a player, so why does anyone expect him to suddenly have magic words of wisdom and become a good broadcaster? As usual like his captaincy he will be given special treatment, and endless support and help. Contrast what Root is going through. Cook never experienced any critics in the mainstream media. It was only those outside cricket.

            Strauss was also not suitable as a commentator in my view. Boring opinions and little insight. Also, he had no sense of humour, and a monotone voice. No wonder he ended up at the ECB. Strauss, Cook, Root, reveal something God dam awful about the sort of person they want to lead the England cricket test team in the modern world. Essentially John Major without the personality!

            Lovejoy was sometimes, albeit unintentional rather revealing about the mind set of the modern player. Who will forget when he opined that he thought test match tickets were £20? His comedy routine wears thin but if forced at gun point to listen to either I would choose him over Cook any day of the week.

            How about broadcasters go back to employing people who are good at broadcasting? Some ex players have it, some don’t. Increasingly it seems to be viewed as a right of passage that because you played att he top end of sport you must be able to talk about it well and entertainingly. It’s not the case.

            In fairness to Agnew when he started out he could talk about it in a way that moved beyond the dressing room bias, Shame he, like Nasser has returned to that mode as he has got older,

            Rant over!

            Liked by 2 people

          • LordCanisLupus Feb 9, 2019 / 1:51 pm

            I have to be fair, Mark. He has an opportunity to be something positive. I take your point that it’s too tempting to side with authority, not criticise your management for fear of future jobs not being there. But if Sir Alastair doesn’t have reserves of goodwill in the bank with the powers that be, then no-one does.


        • LordCanisLupus Feb 9, 2019 / 12:19 pm

          If there were power rankings in the England team, from safest to “on the hot seat”, out of this 12 how would it look?

          1. Joe Root – Captain, un-droppable, best batsman even if returns are diminishing
          2. Ben Stokes – Getting to be a bit more of a potential / reputation over actual substance, but still a two-way player, borderline test class at both. As they say though, they won’t pick him purely as a batsman.
          3. Jimmy Anderson – Although rested, which is why he is below Stokes, in Sri Lanka, without him we look bereft.
          4. Jos Buttler – Many tout him as the next captain, but is he really in the top four middle-order first class batsmen in England? That should be the question. But it does not appear to be being asked.
          5. Jonny Bairstow – The selection here proves he has influence. They will try to fit him in after the problems at 3.
          6. Stuart Broad – Although dropped for the first game, he has influential journalistic lobbyists, and leaving him out now will be fraught with criticism. So he stays.
          7. Moeen Ali – Could interchange him with Broad. He’s seen as number one spinner because he can bat. When the batting returns go down, he becomes vulnerable. Leach should be next in line. But you never know.
          8. Rory Burns – I think England think he’s up to it. I have no real concrete reason to say so, but he’s not being briefed against, has, I think, the highest individual score on this tour, and the pundits don’t seem to mind him. That matters.
          9. Mark Wood – Well, will he be dropped or be injured first. He’s on wobbly ground. Needs to prove he brings more than Sam Curran.
          10. Joe Denly – Good luck. Cock this up and you are gone. They are already mentioning James Vince again.
          11. Keaton Jennings – Remember when they said he seemed to have solved his issues after 20 minutes at the crease in the summer. Now he can’t play pace. You don’t think being briefed in favour of/ against matters? A dead man walking.
          12. Sam Curran – He’s not an opening bowler. He’s an all-rounder. He just reminds me of Ben Hollioake. We misused him, and due to our current muddle, we’ll misuse Sam. Dropped after being the player Kohli identified as the difference-maker and chased for his T20 team. The brains trust know best. 12th man if Stokes isn’t fit.

          I will point to one of these players who should be a lot lower in the list. Jos Buttler. He is a non-bowling number 6. He is the second most solid batsman in terms of place in the team (above Stokes if you follow the logic). Is he really the second best middle-order batsman in red ball cricket in England?

          Liked by 1 person

          • dlpthomas Feb 9, 2019 / 2:49 pm

            I never saw much of Ben Hollioake. Was he misused or over-rated?


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