England vs. West Indies, 1st Test, Day 5

What. A . Game.

After watching Wednesday’s turgid rainathon and Thursday’s parade of England wickets, the last thing I was expecting to see on Sunday was a nailbiting finish. But that’s what I got today, with both teams’ strengths and frailties leading to a tense final day.

England’s innings didn’t last long in the morning, with the tailenders adding another 29 runs to their overnight total for the last two wickets. This left West Indies with a target of 201 runs to win the first Test of the series.

There were two main themes to the West Indies innings. One was Jofra Archer, who looked a step above the other England bowlers in terms of wicket taking threat. This went from the start of the day to the end, with Archer bowling 17 of the 64 overs in the day and looking dangerous throughout. He began by hitting John Campbell in the foot with a yorker, causing the West Indies opener to retire hurt in just the fourth over. A couple of overs later, Kraigg Brathwaite inside edged a ball from Archer onto the stumps. Archer’s next over saw the end of Shamarh Brooks’ day, with the Barbadian trapped LBW. In just his first four overs, Archer cut through the West Indies top order and arguably put England in the position of clear favourites.

Which brings us to to the second theme: England throwing away chances with poor fielding and a lack of discipline. In the afternoon session, England missed three clear chances to take wickets and put themselves in the driver’s seat. Zak Crawley fumbled a run out chance after a mixup between Chase and Blackwood left them almost at the same end, and Rory Burns appeared to lose sight of a chance in the slips, but the worst one had to be Buttler spilling a glove down the leg side from Jermaine Blackwood. The West Indian batsman went on to score another 75 runs before being dismissed just before the finish. It is no exaggeration to say that this drop almost certainly cost England the game.

The bowlers weren’t entirely blameless either, or at least the captain. Ben Stokes overstepped the bowling crease twice for wickettaking chances, although the first one was dropped and the second time he took a wicket with his next delivery. Anderson didn’t seem entirely on the ball either, with his bowling being mostly defensive without much sideways movement. Overall, there was definitely an impression that England were not sharp in the field.

The West Indies were deserved winners, but England have to wonder what might have been. There was little to choose between the two teams at the end, and questions about the lineup, the decision at the toss and the quality of their fielding abound. I myself found myself rooting for the West Indies by the end. They bravely withstood a barrage by Archer, with injured opener John Campbell returning in the final few overs to take the tourists over the line. More than that, these people came thousands of miles into the midst of an epidemic, spending weeks in quarantine, just to play us at cricket. It would almost be a shame if they left with no victories for their efforts.

For the next Test, I’m not sure exactly what changes Ed Smith and Chris Silverwood will make. After the selections for this game, I doubt anyone could predict what they will come up with. Joe Root is certain to return, and the consensus is that Joe Denly will be the one to make way in England’s top four.

There’s certainly a very solid argument that Denly has failed to take his chance, with his 29 runs from 70 balls yesterday underlining both his key strength and weakness. He consistently gets in, lasting at least 30 balls in 75% of his Test innings. This compares well to Zak Crawley (62.5%, from a small sample), Rory Burns (64.5%), and even Joe Root (67.9%). The problem for Denly is that he also consistently fails to turn those starts into big scores, which is why he also has the worst Test average of the five likely contenders for the top four at Old Trafford.

It would seem virtually certain that Stuart Broad will return at Old Trafford, unless he is going to be punished for his forthright interview on Sky Sports. Surely only a complete idiot would play Archer and Wood in three Tests over the course of twenty-one days but, between Ed Smith and England’s medical staff, I couldn’t rule it out completely. Chris Woakes and Sam Curran would also be eager for inclusion, particularly if conditions were in any way similar to the first two days in Southampton.

Dom Bess has probably done enough to keep his place in the side for now, with 2/51 at an economical run rate being very useful first innings figures for a spinner in England. Ollie Pope had a poor game, scoring just 24 runs, but has a Test average of over forty since his debut in 2018 and therefore must be one of the first names on the team sheet.

Speaking of players who average over forty in Tests since their debut in 2018: Ben Foakes. The continued selection of Jos Buttler in England’s Test team is puzzling on two fronts. Firstly, the England team is essentially operating with completely separate squads for red and white ball cricket this summer and so it deprives the ODI and T20 teams of arguably their most powerful batsman.

Secondly, it is generally accepted that he is the worst wicketkeeper of the three in contention and that it is his alleged batting prowess that keeps him in the side. Buttler’s  drop of Blackwood in the second innings certainly won’t help him make his case as the best available gloveman. The obvious problem with that is that his form with the bat has been poor for a long time. He averages 23.22 with the bat since the start of 2019. It’s even worse than that though, when you factor in that until last November he was selected as a specialist batsman. Jonny Bairstow was dropped after averaging 18.00 from seven games as England wicketkeeper after succeeding Ben Foakes. Since replacing Bairstow as England’s keeper in New Zealand, Jos Buttler has averaged 18.36 in six Tests.

After three months without cricket (or much else), the next couple of months will be something of a feast for English cricket fans. Between now and the end of August, there won’t be a single break of more than three days between men’s England games. The second Test starts on Thursday at Old Trafford, and I for one can’t wait!

As always, please comment on the game or anything  else below.


11 thoughts on “England vs. West Indies, 1st Test, Day 5

  1. Benny Jul 12, 2020 / 9:26 pm

    Spot on Danny. I was glued to the TV today. Forget the toss, the selection and all that, it was just gripping to watch.


  2. Gareth Jul 12, 2020 / 9:56 pm

    What a fabulous game of cricket. Huge congratulations to the West Indies.

    Some thoughts:-

    The fielding.

    Crawley (not Sibley I believe) with the run-out chance and the other bits of shoddy fielding are, I believe, emblematic of not picking the best wicketkeeper. The keeper should be keeping everyone on their toes. The standard of some of the returns, and the ground fielding seemed shoddy to me.

    Ed Myth (copyright George Dobell)

    It’s got to the point where I think Ed would rather a Buttler hundred in a losing effort than a poor Buttler performance in a win. We’ve had 42 Tests from a so-called match-winner where he hasn’t won one for them (his only hundred was a meaningless one in a loss). I think it’s also possible to admire Denly’s gumption whilst still admitting that he’s probably not up to it.

    Persevering with underperforming players (especially whilst trying to bed new players like Sibley, Crawley and Pope) is just too big an ask for a team that has it’s obvious limitations.

    Jofra Archer

    I thought he produced two sensational spells today. Really pleased for him. Couple of sweet tonks with the bat too.


    • dannycricket Jul 12, 2020 / 10:25 pm

      You’re right, my mistake. I just checked and it was Crawley. All these new faces in the England squad kind of merge into one for me and I tend to mix them all up.

      With England’s fielding, I wonder how much work they did on it in their preparations for this series. I can see how, if they were more focused on fitness, batting and bowling, they might have overlooked fielding drills. The problem there is that there’s very little time in between games to make up for any shortfall. There’s only three days off before the next Test, and I’d think they would lose one on travel and at least one for rest.

      I would definitely drop Butter. The idea of keeping him away from the white ball teams this summer seems utterly bizarre to me. With Denly, I can at least see the argument for his inclusion. England have a propensity for losing lots of wickets in close clusters, seemingly more so than any other team, and a player who rarely gets out cheaply helps avoid this. Having two or three such players in the top order might also give your run-scoring middle order better conditions to bat in more often, with an older ball and more fatigued bowlers to face. I didn’t mention Dom Sibley in that section, mostly because his rate of reaching thirty balls is the same as Denly’s (from a smaller sample) and his average is higher. I would go with Crawley for the next two games, to give him a chance, but I wouldn’t rule out going back to Denly at some point.

      The main question I have with Archer is whether it’s wise to pick him in back-to-back games. Quite simply, I don’t want him to break down and England’s schedule is ridiculously tight this summer. There is also the question of the upcoming T20 World Cup (whenever it is rescheduled for). If Archer is likely to be in the squad for that, I’d want him to be playing most of England’s T20Is in the run up to it.


      • dlpthomas Jul 13, 2020 / 3:37 am

        I can see them picking Archer because they have to win the second test to stay in the series and he looked the man most likely to take wickets. Then, if it is one-all, they’ll pick him again because they can win the series.

        I’d drop Buttler and, with a tear in my eye, Denley, I haven’t got a clue how to manage the bowlers.

        Where I am, the test starts on Thursday so I don’t have to wait as long as you guys because that’s how time works.


        • dannycricket Jul 13, 2020 / 7:19 am

          No, it’s Thursday here too. The condensed schedule and residual lack of awareness of which day it is from lockdown mixed me up.

          That’s what I can see happening with Archer too. Anderson and Archer were the two England bowlers who had the most overs in this game, and I can see that being the case in the next two Tests too. We’re going to drive them into the ground.

          Having said that, the West Indies might be in a similar situation. Holder and Roach bowled more overs than any of England’s attack, so they might need a break in the next game too.


  3. Miami Dad's Six Jul 12, 2020 / 9:59 pm

    Twas Crawley who missed the runout chance today, not Sibley. Otherwise a good assessment of the game.

    A few unjoined up thoughts ;

    Jimmy was crap today. When was his last 5fer? Am I expecting too much?

    Bess did OK in the first innings and I am sure he is a good guy and has the right face fitting the right way. However… today we had a 5th day chase of 200 where he only bowls 10 overs – he simply isn’t a good enough off spinner.

    Woakes should play. His record is dire away from home, but I don’t actually care about the future selection of touring parties. I care about winning this series now. His stats in England are very good with bat and ball – better than Broad, but you won’t hear him complaining about it.

    Denly isn’t good enough but he’s doing his best to adapt to the role and is performing a duty even if he isn’t ever going to win Tests.

    Buttler must go. Not good enough for too long.

    Why were they so on it and England so off it? Identical preparation. England’s mindset all off. Underestimating a team who have beaten us several times in spite of being one of the lowest ranked sides in the world.


    • Gareth Jul 12, 2020 / 11:00 pm

      I suspect with Woakes, it’s precisely *because* you wont hear him complaining about it that it’s so easy to leave him out. He doesn’t have media cheerleaders (Curran) a propensity to take the massive strop (Bairstow) a blinded-by-his-own-vanity-selectorial champion (Buttler) or 485 Test wickets (Broad) to make the case for him.

      I wonder about maybe giving Jimmy the second Test off. He’s only just back from an injury and he wasn’t quite himself today.


    • dannycricket Jul 12, 2020 / 11:07 pm

      My general impression of Anderson’s typical preparation for a season is that he plays a few games for Lancashire leading up to the first Test series. I wonder if he’s just a little undercooked. That said, the commentators remarked how quick he was bowling, so perhaps that has reduced his effectiveness.

      I’m not sure where I stand on Bess, to be honest. He’s young and not had a huge amount of first class cricket for Somerset, so I’m surprised and impressed with how good he is for England. His batting ability seems overstated, and I’d honestly prefer Leach to him if judged solely on batting. I’d have picked Leach, all things considered, but I can’t say with any confidence that this would have changed the result.

      I would be tempted to prefer Sam Curran to Chris Woakes for the next Test, although Woakes’ record at Old Trafford is incredibly good. In terms of the bowling attack, Woakes seems pretty similar to Anderson, Broad and Stokes. Curran offers greater variation, which might help in some matchups.

      I’d just send Buttler to the white ball squad. Asking him to bat patiently in Tests is like using a Ferrari to carry scaffolding. Sure you can do it, but it won’t do it as well as something suited for the job.

      Denly I would drop, but I think I would still keep him in the squad to cover any top order injuries. He hasn’t done enough to secure his place, and he has had a fair chance, but I have liked his consistency.

      Regarding England’s preparations, I think the West Indies had two warmup games to England’s one. It might be simplistic, but perhaps they are just a game behind the tourists right now?


  4. Rohan Jul 14, 2020 / 2:54 am

    Great to have live cricket back on here, enjoyable read.

    Good to see the Windies victorious, great for them and cricket.

    Foakes! I just don’t get it, he has to be in ahead of Buttler!

    I’d also bring Curran in….


    • dannycricket Jul 14, 2020 / 6:44 am

      Selecting Buttler in the Test team is two mistakes rolled into one. On the Test side of things, it’s picking a player who wasn’t in good enough form with the bat to justify a spot as a specialist batsman and then putting him in a position which degrades his batting ability further. For me, the worse aspect of the selection is that it keeps a genuinely world-class white ball batsman out of England’s ODI and T20 teams this summer. It’s patently ridiculous. Buttler would be practically the first name on the team sheet in those formats, and a genuine contender to succeed Morgan when the time comes. It used to be that England tried to pick Test cricketers in white ball formats on the assumption that their overall quality would help them adapt. It never worked. Now, when England have a better ODI than Test team, the process is reversed.

      And it’s still not working.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. Pontiac Jul 14, 2020 / 3:51 am

    I’m not particularly surprised that West Indies won, and even before this started I expected them to retain the trophy. I do not believe this view is inconsistent with the record over the last few years.

    The team is focused and disciplined and has depth in skill areas. I hope they get Cornwall in at some point, e.g. if Campbell can’t play.


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