I think that it’s more than fair to say that England have made a colossal pigs ear of this match over the first 3 days. From their mystifying choice of bowling attack to choosing to bat first with dark skies and rain in the air to the lack of application in their batting. This has been a chastening experience so far. This however, should not take away any credit from the West Indies who bowled superbly in favourable conditions and whose batting has been disciplined and intelligent on the most part, though I’m sure that innings by Jermaine Blackwood would have had even the most patient of coaches reaching for the whiskey bottle.
England needed early wickets at the start of the day but found themselves facing a steadfast Kraigg Brathwaite, who can feel a little unlucky to be dismissed, alongside Brooks and Chase who simply refused to give their wicket away. Whereas the former 3 were disciplined and at times obstinate, Shane Dowrich came in and played a gem of an innings, one that could well have taken the game away from England with the West Indian tail doing enough to frustrate England. I’ve watched a decent amount of West Indian cricket over the past couple of years and Dowrich is the guy who has improved the most with the bat. He is aggressive but isn’t reckless and has improved both his defence and his technique against the fast bowlers. He reminds of a batsman in the style of Matt Prior and I can only see his average keep improving as he becomes more and more accustomed to performing at International level.
Much has been discussed about the make-up of the England attack and in the main they are completely correct. It is a sad indictment when a 37 year old Jimmy Anderson, who hasn’t played for almost a year, is your only real threat amongst the main seam attack. I didn’t get the selection at the toss and I really don’t get the selection now. It seems like clever Ed got seduced by having two 90mph quicks in the team and then forgot to read the pitch conditions and the overhead help from above. To say it has backfired would be a massive understatement. Jofra Archer has bowled poorly and his lack of match practice shows, especially when given the 2nd new ball, as all he could muster was a number of leg side half volleys at a jot over 80mph. Mark Wood has bowled with fire but has been wayward and as the first innings showed, this pitch was never going to be suited to tear away quicks rather than tall bowlers who could get some movement off a sluggish pitch. As a result of both Wood and Archer’s ineffectiveness, Stokes was forced to overbowl himself and even if he didn’t bowl brilliantly, he still managed to take 4 wickets and prevented a West Indian lead becoming insurmountable. The fact that he seems to aggravated a foot injury will not music to England supporters ears. If only we had a 6’5 bowler who had averaged a jot over 23 and was the leading wicket taker over the summer and the winter. Oh…
Speaking of Stuart Broad, it was refreshing to see a player actually speak their mind rather than the normally contrived media speak that we normally get. Broad in his interview with Sky said he was angry, frustrated and gutted to be left out and I imagine that is the pre-watershed version of what he is thinking.
Personally, I can’t disagree with a word he said and if I was in Broad’s shoes I’d be mightily pissed off too. How many times has a batsman been dropped when he has been top scorer the winter before, unless you count those that look out of windows. Broad led the England attack manfully in the winter in the absence of Jimmy Anderson and was our best bowler by far, so to be left out on a pitch that would’ve been perfectly suited to his bowling, must feel like a massive slap in the face by our hapless selectors. Ed Smith is known for being a bit funky with his selections and is known for picking certain players for certain pitch conditions, but he has made a cock up of the highest order in this Test.
So with a deficit of 114 and batting line flimsier than a wicker house, it was imperative that England didn’t lose any wickets before the close of play. They somehow managed this but it did involve a large element of luck with Roach, Gabriel and Holder bowling some beautiful lines and lengths. Sibley in particular looks to be struggling with his technique and he’ll really need to tighten that up to stand a chance of scoring runs this series against this very good bowling attack.
So we roll onto Day 4, with England still facing a 99 run deficit and once again the morning session will be vital to the outcome of this Test. If the openers can see off the new ball and get close to wiping out the deficit then we could have an interesting game on our hands; however if the West Indies can take a few early wickets then this game might not last the day.
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