England vs West Indies, 3rd Test, Day 3 – Is Broad Bowling?

England are in a dominant position overnight, and it seems like only the English weather can rescue the West Indies from an inevitable defeat. One man is essentially responsible for England’s ascendancy in this game: Stuart Broad.

The West Indies’ first innings ended pretty quickly, at least once Broad started bowling. He had been held back for the first few overs of the morning, perhaps being saved for the start of the next innings if England had managed to enforce the follow-on. Whilst Jason Holder and Shane Dowrich had a few scares, including Holder being given out before being recalled due to Chris Woakes’ second ever Test no ball, they looked set when Stuart Broad started. Four overs later, Broad had taken four wickets and the West Indies innings was over.

England’s second innings began with two injuries to the tourists. First was captain Jason Holder, who stopped a bouncing ball through the slips with his left thumb and had to leave the field briefly for treatment. The second, and significantly more serious injury, was to wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich. Some late swing after it passed the batsman meant that a quick, short delivery from Shannon Gabriel barely glanced the keeper’s gloves and was instead stopped by his unprotected face. A painful one to watch, and he immediately left the field for medical attention and didn’t return.

Fortunately for the West Indies, ICC changed the rules in 2018 to allow teams to bring in substitute wicketkeepers. Shai Hope stood in for a few overs before reserve keeper Joshua Da Silva came on the field for the rest of the day. He almost made an immediate impact, just failing to stump Rory Burns. Just on the evidence of today, I would say that he looks much more confident in terms of his glovework compared to Shane Dowrich. It’s unclear whhether Dowrich will be available to bat for the tourists in the next innings. One possibility, seeing as it was a head injury, is that he can be replaced in the batting lineup by Da Silva if Dowrich is exhibiting concussion symptoms. Otherwise, Dowrich will either have to face England’s bowling attack or the West Indies will forfeit his wicket.

This England innings represents the tenth of Rory Burns and Dom Sibley’s opening partnerships. When they are batting together at the start of an innings, they score an average of 43.00 runs for the first wicket. This is fantastic. To put this in context, the last England opening partnership of at least ten innings to average more than this was the Compton/Cook pairing in 2012-13. The one before that was Cook/Vaughan in 2007-08. The Cook/Strauss opening partnership of 2006-12 averaged ‘just’ 40.96. There are many people, including journalists and commentators, who are decrying their slow scoring rate. It is certainly slow, only Joe Root’s opening partnership with Alastair Cook in the 2013 Ashes has a lower run rate in recent times, but it is also working. Just last summer, England were averaging 16.66 for their first wicket at home. Since then, England are scoring an average of 43.75 runs before their first dismissal. Good starts are a rare and precious commodity for England Test teams in recent years, and they should not be sacrificed on the altar of playing attacking or attractive cricket.

When Dom Sibley did eventually lose his wicket for 56 (bringing his 2020 batting average to 57.44 from six Tests), the scoring tempo rose dramatically. Perhaps taking his cue from Stuart Broad yesterday, Joe Root went into white ball mode and managed to reach his half-century quicker than a run per ball. Eventually Rory Burns sacrificed his wicket on 90 trying a slog sweep in order to score more quickly, which led Joe Root to declare with England 398 runs ahead.

With Broad taking a six-fer in the first innings, all eyes were on him at the start of the second. He didn’t disappoint, taking John Campbell’s wicket in his first over drawing an edge to first slip. Nightwatchman Kemar Roach followed soon after. Between the end of the West Indies’ first innings and the beginning of their second, Broad took six wickets in seven overs today. It has been a truly remarkable Test for Broad, and he has the opportunity to cap it with a historic milestone as he currently sits on 499 career Test wickets.

Stuart Broad is also the top wicket-taker in this series so far with fourteen wickets so far. An impressive feat, considering the entire West Indies attack (and Dom Bess) have played an extra Test compared to Broad. Of those fourteen wickets, eight have been bowled or lbw. There is often consternation amongst England fans when England’s bowlers bowl short and wide, particularly at home or with the new ball. This series demonstrates why. Whilst some world-class batsmen would punish such a line and length, the vast majority of Test cricketers struggle against a seaming or swinging ball and deliveries going on to hit the stumps bring at least two forms of dismissal into play.

All eyes are on the weather forecast for tomorrow, with many people expecting a washout. In the form Broad is in right now, maybe he can even do something about that.

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