Well ladies and gentlemen it certainly looks like we have a decent game on our hands, especially if tomorrow’s predicted rain holds off.
England managed a more than respectable 469-9 before they declared much to the chagrin of those that have missed Stuart Broad batting more than anything else, but on a slow wicket on which runs are hard to score, it was a refreshingly decent performance from most of our batsmen. The day belonged to both Dominic Sibley and to Ben Stokes who both converted hard earned starts into hundreds, indeed the latter looked like he might take the game away from the West Indies, when he decided to flick the switch. It has been a long while coming that an English batsman not named Ben Stokes knuckled down and scored a hundred in conditions that were not at all easy, yet somewhat predictably but still somewhat mystifyingly, there were a number of people queuing up to have a pop at Sibley for batting too slowly. It all smacks of ‘have your cake and eat it’. We’ve all been rightfully criticising the English batting line up for being too flaky and too aggressive, yet when an individual digs in and makes a century, albeit one of the slower ones in recent history, he is accused of ‘batting for his average’ or hampering England’s chances to win the game. It’s like people have forgotten the Jason Roy experiment last summer. Personally I’d be happy if Sibley plays like that every day if he continues to churn out big scores at the top of the order and sets a platform for our more fluent batters.
Stokes on the other hand has really become the talisman of our batting unit, who has the uncanny knack of knowing when to defend and when to attack. This coupled with the fact that he is skilful enough to be able to flick the switch between attack and defend means that he is an incredibly dangerous batsman to bowl at. The one thing I also really like about Stokes batting is that his set up is incredibly simple. There is no big trigger movement, no scratching around the crease, but instead on most occasions his bat comes down at a perfectly straight angle. I’m certainly no expert on batting (much like Simon Hughes, though I’ve decided not to release a book) being a bowler when I still played the game, but I just don’t see him suffer the same sort of technical issues that many in this team still have. If only batting was as easy as Stokes makes it look at times, though his reverse paddle to get himself out is something I can relate to, except that we needed to bat out 7 overs at the time.
The rest of the batting was a bit of a mish-mash as England tried to put on some quick runs that would enable them to have a crack at the West Indies this evening. Pope looks a bit out of touch at the moment, Woakes dollied a wide one to slip and Buttler played the sort of infuriating innings that he has been accustomed to in Test Cricket, eventually holing out to the only fielder within 50 yards on the onside. Of course, this was never going to be a winning situation for Buttler to bat in as he would either be accused of scoring easy runs against a bowling attack running on empty or get out cheaply again playing a silly shot. In the end, he performed somewhere in the middle, which sums up his Test career – simply a bit mediocre.
The West Indies stuck manfully to their task in the field, obviously battling fatigue and a number of injuries to their fast bowlers. The pitch although difficult to score on, hasn’t really helped any of the quicks with a lack of pace and a lack of sideways movement and the best they could really do was to try and dry up the runs. It was left to Roston Chase again, so often the tormentor of England to take the majority of the wickets. Chase did manage to get a fair bit of turn out of the pitch, which should have Dom Bess licking his lips at the chance of having a long bowl on it. Whether it’s just the fact that he has the wood over England or due to a lack of technique against spin, Chase once again made one or two of the English batsmen look a bit silly. Not bad for a supposed part-time bowler.
So with runs on the board and a tired West Indian side at the crease, England went in search of wickets to really open up the game. The fact that they only managed one, a really nice delivery from Sam Curran that was eventually given out on review, will be a slight disappointment. This was even further compounded by Root not choosing to review an LBW shout against Joseph that both looked out in real time and was going on to hit middle stump. This isn’t to say England bowled badly, Broad in particular can feel unlucky that he didn’t manage to find the edge, but it does highlight the slog England will have in taking 20 wickets on this pitch, especially if Bess doesn’t bowl well.
So Day 3 is nicely set up for tomorrow and fingers crossed, if the rain holds off, we could have another intriguing day’s play ahead.
As ever, thoughts and comments are always welcomed.