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.

As always, please comment below.


England vs. West Indies, 3rd Test, Day 2 – Is Broad Batting

The rain did us all a favour today by deciding to head South rather than sit at its normal location which normally is right above Manchester and to be fair we’ve had a bonus day of good cricket, even if it was cut short abruptly by the Umpires.

England will naturally be the happier team right now even if they were hoping for a bigger score than 369 all out, though they would have bitten your hand off for that score at 280-8 after a significant collapse against the new ball. It is always hard starting again when the bowlers are fresh and have a new ball in their hand and it has to be said that the West Indies bowled superbly for the first half hour; however that being said it was a real shame that neither Buttler or Pope could go on and make a match winning hundred after the graft they put it yesterday. When Woakes and then Archer also went cheaply, the former is really struggling for form with the bat and the latter looks more and more like a number 11, the hearts of most England fans would have sunk. Enter Sir Stuart Broad.

This was not an innings for the purists to say the least and the time when Stuart Broad could be potentially viewed as an allrounder are long gone, but on my was it effective. Whilst Dom Bess played patiently as a proper batsman, Broad was given licence to have a swipe and swipe was exactly what he did with some great and then some fairly fortuitous shots to the boundary. It’s a real shame that Broad is unable to replicate the batting talent he had as a young cricketer, after all he has a higher Test score than a certain Mark Waugh; however when he bats, people watch. He may come off only once a series, but when he does, it certainly is compulsive viewing. England are just mighty glad that it was in this game that Broad managed to come off with the bat otherwise they’d be rueing another costly collapse.

So the West Indies, who had originally thought they’d be chasing under 300, looked pretty deflated when they came off the field and it showed in their batting. The sad thing is that I don’t England bowled all that well, except for Broad’s and Anderson’s spells after tea, which is a weird thing to say when they have a side 137-6. After getting the dangerous Brathwaite out early, England bowled far too short allowing the woefully out of form duo of Hope and Campbell to settle in nicely. Ironically it was a nasty bouncer by Jofra Archer that finally got rid of Campbell and allowed England to open the door. Anderson and Broad then took charge straight after tea, with the former bowling 2 unplayable deliveries that the batsmen did well to nick and the latter celebrating an LBW with an outrageous celebrappeal and probably a trip to the Match referees office too. Blackwood and Holder then looked to gain some semblance of momentum back for the West Indies before the former decided to go for an overambitious drive from a good ball from Chris Woakes that nipped back off the seam.

So we head onto Day 3 with a decent forecast and already talk of declaration speculation, especially as Monday could well be a total write off with the weather. I suspect England will bat again even if they do bowl the West Indies out short of the follow on target, but they probably won’t be hanging about knowing the forecast for Monday and wanting at least a day to bowl at the West Indian batsmen a second time.

One major moan though has to be the continued insistence of the umpires coming off for bad light at around 6pm each night. I even joked that they must have room service booked for 6:15pm every night. The light was murky but no way was it dangerous and we have also invented these crazy new things called floodlights to keep the game going. It’s crazy that in this day and age that we allow cricket to keep shooting itself in the dick and if the light is going to be a problem, start the damn Test half an hour earlier! The umpires are probably grateful that there aren’t any fans in the ground, because if you’d have paid the best part of £70 for the day, you’d be mighty pissed off at seeing the players trudge off the ground with the floodlights standing there. Anyway, slight rant over.

As ever do feel free to share your thoughts on the game or anything else below:

England vs West Indies, 3rd Test – Preview

Just a few days ago, England looked like they would fail to win the series and regain the Wisden Trophy. Now, you’d have to say they must be considered clear favourites to overcome their loss in the first Test and come out victorious again at Old Trafford.

The key difference between the two teams in this game is their bowling attacks. England have a choice from six pace bowlers for three available slots, assuming Stokes and Bess both play. None of the six have played in back-to-back Tests in this series and so should be fit and raring to go. If anything, there is too much choice for the England camp. Woakes and Broad both bowled superbly in the last game, and so it would be incredibly harsh to leave either of them out, but selecting both would mean only picking one of Anderson (at his home ground) and Archer. The suggestion has been floated that England might forgo playing with a specialist spinner altogether, instead opting for an all-pace attack with Root as a stand-in spin option. I personally can’t see it happening, but it would certainly be interesting to watch.

For what it’s worth, I would pick Archer, Bess, Broad, Stokes and Woakes for this Test, from the announced matchday squad. Broad and Woakes demonstrated their ability in Mancunian conditions last week, taking 11 wickets at a combined average of 16.73. Archer and Stokes are, for me, the most challenging two English bowlers with the older ball. That would mean leaving out Jimmy Anderson (587 career Test wickets, has a stand at Old Trafford named after him), Sam Curran (Makes Things Happen) and Mark Wood (By far the least effective England bowler so far in this series).

England’s batting lineup will continue unchanged from the second Test. This is unsurprising, as they have been very effective so far in 2020. Their top six of Sibley, Crawley, Stokes, Pope and at least two of Root, Burns and Denly have combined to lead England to innings totals over 400 four times in the last eight Tests, plus 391/8 declared in Cape Town. To put this achievement into context: From the 2017/18 Ashes to the 2019 Ashes, in twenty-six Test matches, England managed to reach 400 runs only three times.

For the tourists, the picture is somewhat less rosy. Having chosen to play an unchanged side in the second Test, the West Indies must now either pick a bowling attack which must feel dead on their feet or select their less experienced or skillful backup bowlers. As for their batting, opener John Campbell and scourge of Headingley Shai Hope have failed to impress so far in this series with averages below twenty.

All of which is to say that I think the West Indies have a mountain to climb in this game. That said, England have shown themselves fully capable of shooting themselves in the foot in the past and it would be a fool to underestimate (or call mediocre) any Test team who faces them.  The previous two Tests have developed into last-day thrillers, and it would be wonderful if tomorrow’s game completes that set, whoever wins.

As always, please comment below.

England vs. West Indies – 2nd Test, Day 4 – “One Of Those Spells”

There is a serious danger of this blog becoming a Stuart Broad fan site. For essentially the first five hours of play, this Test match was seemingly drifting towards an inevitable draw. Then Broad took the second new ball and ripped through the West Indian middle order and the game was not wide open, but at least still in play.

The first hour seemed promising for England fans, with at least two clear wicket-taking opportunities going to (and through) the slip cordon. Eventually, it was Bess who managed to dislodge yesterday’s nightwatchman with a sharp catch from Ollie Pope at short leg. England fans hoped that this would start an avalanche of wickets, but that didn’t come to pass. The flow of chances seemingly dried up, with wickets falling sporadically but without the  tourists looking overly troubled as they meandered towards avoiding the follow-on.

England took the new ball with the West Indies on 235/4, apparently set to comfortably bat out the rest of the day. What happened instead was Stuart Broad dragging England back into contention with three wickets in four overs. Two lbws and a bowled show the importance (as ever) of bowling at the stumps, although Broad was certainly helped by the new ball eliciting variable bounce which left the tourists unsure whether to go forwards or back to his deliiveries.

Woakes continued Broad’s good work, taking the final two wickets of the innings, but it was too late for England as perennial thorn-in-England’s-side Roston Chase scored the runs which took the West Indies past their follow-on target, forcing England to bat again.

Ben Stokes left the field apparently holding his side early in the evening session. Given that he bowled an 11-over spell, largely consisting of bouncers, it wasn’t much of a surprise, but fortunately for England it was apparently just indigestion. He returned to the field not long later, and was called upon to serve as a pinchhitting opener when England’s second innings began.

Stokes’s opening partner was Jos Buttler. He was bowled for a duck, getting an inside edge on a short and wide delivery which cannoned into his stumps. Whilst it may be unfair to read anything at all into a Test batsman’s performance in such circumstances, it does bear mentioning that the two situations he faced in this Test are supposed to be his strengths. In the first innings, he came in with England on 352/5. In that scenario, Buttler is supposed to score runs quickly (using his undoubted white ball prowess) and put pressure on the opposition without taking time out of the game. Instead, he scored 40 from 79 balls. Understandable restraint, given that his continued selection has been questionable for a while now and he needs a big score to secure his place in the side, but arguably not what was needed by his team. In the second innings, when he could essentially treat the game like the shorter formats in which he thrives, he simply mishit a short, wide ball from Kemar Roach which was there for the taking. It may beg the question: If Jos Buttler won’t deliver for England in the exact circumstances that he is supposed to thrive in, what is the point of picking him at all?

England’s batting order reset after the experimental opening duo of Stokes and Buttler, with regular number three Zak Crawley scoring a quickfire 11 before being bowled by Kemar Roach. Regular number 4 Joe Root then came to the crease, in the too-familiar situation of England being 17/2. He and Stokes managed to see out the day, with England finishing on 37/2.

This all means that England are currently 219 runs ahead, with 98 overs scheduled for tomorrow because of yesterday’s rain. England need to win the game in order to regain the Wisden Trophy and avoid drawing their second consecutive home Test series and so, if that is a priority, we might expect a fairly early declaration tomorrow. If England managed to score 50 runs in the first 40 minutes, for example, that would leave the West Indies chasing 270 runs in 86 overs at a minimum of 3.14 runs per over. The later England leave it, and the more the West Indies can restrict the scoring rate, the greater the chance of the tourists rescuing (or even winning) this game.

After a rather dull first couple of sessions, Stuart Broad really rescued England and leaves us going into tomorrow’s play with all three results still on the table. Test cricket is great.

As always, please leave your comments below.

England vs West Indies, 2nd Test, Day 2 – Application

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.

England vs. West Indies – 2nd Test Preview

After a great conclusion to the first Test of the summer, England head to Old Trafford in order to try and rescue the series and their chances of regaining the Wisden Trophy. For the West Indies, tomorrow’s Test presents an historic opportunity to win their first Test series in England since 1988. There certainly isn’t a direct financial motive for the tourists, with their series win bonus being reportedly only £1,600 each. It throws the disparity between the two teams’ financial positions into sharp focus, as well as explaining why so many players from countries outside the Big Three concentrate on T20 instead of the longer formats. As might be expected after a game where they outperformed England in virtually every aspect of the game, the West Indies have announced an unchanged squad.

England’s situation is, as is common after a loss, significantly more fluid. It’s been confirmed that Joe Root will replace Joe Denly in England’s top order, which will take no one by surprise. Anderson and Wood have also been rested for this Test, meaning that Sam Curran and Ollie Robinson have been drafted into the matchday squad. This means that there are four bowlers vying for the two open slots, with Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes having missed out last week.

This squad means that Jos Buttler and Dom Bess will be retained, probably for the remainder of the series. Buttler’s issues with the bat have been apparent for a while now and, after his drop of Blackwood in the previous Test, his work behind the stumps will be closely examined too. Since Chris Read’s last game in 2007, no England Test batsman has averaged less than Jos Buttler whilst playing as wicketkeeper. It’s clear that there is a huge amount of faith in Jos Buttler within the England camp, but surely this experiment has to come to a close soon?

With Dom Bess, his continued selection asks more questions about how the England selectors view Jack Leach. After 10 Tests, 5 of which were in England, Jack Leach has a lower Test bowling average than Graeme Swann. Both at home and away. Leach also has a lower Test economy rate than Swann. Leach has even contributed for England with the bat, most notably at Headingley last year, and has a useful Test batting average of 18.33. I’m not saying that Leach is a better spin bowler than Swann was, but he’s not done much wrong and must be asking what more he could have done to earn a place in the team this summer.

Despite all of the uncertainty in selection, muddled thinking and their sloppiness in the field, I still think England should be considered clear favourites to win in home conditions against this West Indies team. Even with all of the mistakes England made in the first Test, they still had chances to win the game in the final day. The West Indies are no mugs, and to underestimate them (or call them mediocre) would be a mistake, but the last game represents only their second away Test victory since the start of 2018. This is largely because they don’t play many Tests, being in only six games away from home in that period. Their squad has talent and potential, and Jason Holder in particular is a remarkable all-round cricketer, but a team with the experience and resources of England should beat them more often than not.

As always, please comment below.




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.

England vs. West Indies, 1st Test, Day 3 – Deja-Vu

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.

As ever, we appreciate your thoughts and comments below.

England vs. West Indies, 1st Test, Day 1 – Preview & Live Blog


Well the day is finally upon us, the chance to watch to live cricket again, which many of us doubted might even happen this year. Naturally this pales into the context that many people have lost their lives or their livelihoods from this awful pandemic, but as someone much wiser than me said ‘Sport is the most important, least important thing there is’ and I certainly feel excited that we can finally see some live cricket again, albeit in slightly strange surroundings.

A massive debt of gratitude must go to the West Indies for coming over and participating in this series especially when it would have been easier for them to look at the ECB’s call for help with total disdain. I would hope that their administrators (though they are just as bonkers as the ECB) kindly reminds our administrators that they have dug them out of a financial crater of their own doing. Many of us refuse to let the disgraceful actions of ‘The Big 3’ be swept under the carpet now that they themselves are facing some tough financial decisions, but I sure hope that anyone of the sides who tour and help them out, make sure they get rewarded both financially and in the political landscape of the game.

England will have an interesting choice with regards to their fast bowling attack, especially if the pitch at the Aegeas Bowl resembles anything like that of the ‘Intra Squad’ game. In past times, Jimmy and Broad would be the first 2 on the team sheet; however father time still remains undefeated and it would surely be a risk picking both players without any real overs under the belt; indeed it does look like Broad won’t feature, which is a blow for us fans of comical batting. The same could be said for both Wood and Archer, who are recently coming back from injuries and whom I think it would be difficult to pick together in any England side, especially with the horrendous injury catalogue of the former. Although far from a big fan of his, I’d be picking Chris Woakes for this game, especially with our batting line up looking less than convincing.

The batting will pick itself with Root missing this Test and Lawrence being pretty unlucky not to make the final 13. Root will return for the games at Old Trafford, so this does seem a straight shoot out between Denly and Crawley, with the former surely needing a big score if he isn’t going to be the one jettisoned in favour of youth. This is also a mightily big series for Jos Buttler, who has looked anything but a Test Match batsman in the last 12 months.

The West Indies will naturally be hoping for a bit of pace and bounce in the pitch, as their fast bowling is easily their strongest suit. The batting looks vulnerable on paper and it will be an interesting choice if England win the toss with suitable cloud cover on offer.

Naturally, just to piss on our chips, the weather looks less than ideal for the first 2 days. This is especially galling as April and May were so hot weather wise when we were in proper lockdown, but it seems that 2020 isn’t ready to stop toying with us yet. I have a feeling that both Wednesday and Thursday might be stop start affairs, but fingers crossed that we do get a decent amount of play for all of our sanity.

We will be live blogging for most of the day, if and when there is action, so do join in by commenting below. Unfortunately we don’t have the budget of the BBC, so you will need to manually refresh to see the our latest musings or rants dependant on the action..

10:32 – It’s raining, well of course it bloody is. Toss has been delayed.

10:52 – Very powerful interviews with Michael Holding and Ebony Rainsford-Brent on Sky. Uncomfortable viewing at times, but fair play, they haven’t held back on this.

11:11 – For a brief moment the covers were off and it looked like we could have the toss, but unfortunately the weather has intervened again. It could be one of those frustrating day’s of cricket.

11:30 – Whilst the rain continues to fall, I’d absolutely recommend watching the BLM piece on Sky with Michael Holding and Ebony Rainsford-Brent. Really powerful stuff:

11:46 – We’ve had the umpires out for a quick inspection and they’re currently trying to clear any excess water off the ground. Maybe some hope of play in the near future.

11:57 – Maybe not as promising as first thought!

12:04 – Early lunch being taken with another inspection at 1:10pm. This was not the start that we had hoped for.

13:15 – Covers are coming off. Might play be around the corner?

13:30 – England have won the toss and will have a bat! As predicted Broad has been dropped and England will go with Wood, Jimmy and Jofra as their main seamers.

13:32 – That sound your hearing is TLG throwing his phone out of the window somewhere in deepest, darkest, West Sussex.

13:36 – Meanwhile the West Indies have gone for 4 seamers. Could that hurt them in the long run as the Aegeas Bowl is known to take spin the later the game goes on.

13:50 – Quite why we needed a half break between the toss and play starting really is beyond me. If it starts raining again at 2pm, I might have a little cry.

13:59 – Right here we go with the first delivery of the match. TEST CRICKET IS BACK, I REPEAT, TEST CRICKET IS BACK.

14:00 – After the players all take a knee in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter campaign. Roach to bowl the first delivery to Burns.

14:02 – First delivery……….safely defended by Burns.

14:04 – Huge LBW shout against Rory Burns, who misjudges a leave. West Indies review.

14:05 – Umpires call. A bit of luck for Burns early on.

14:07 – Powerful and unified message.

14:09: – WICKET – Sibley bowled by Shannon Gabriel. Sibley shoulders arms to a delivery that nipped back and sees his off stump disappear. Not the start England would’ve hoped for.

14:16 – First run on the board for England. Hang on though, the umpires don’t look to happy with the light. Let’s hope they don’t take them off.

14:17 – Boooooooo. Bit of rain and some dodgy light and the players are off again.

14:22 – 3 overs, 1 run, 1 wicket, some technical difficulties from Sky and then off for a rain break. Yep English cricket is back.

14:34 – Restart in 10 minutes if the rain holds off….IF

14:40 Gerron wi’it. Meanwhile, I didn’t realise how potent Kemar Roach has been against left handers. Yikes.

14:45 – Nervous times for the English batsmen as Joe Denly miscues a pull shot that lands just short of mid-on.

14:51 – The rain is really starting to take the piss now. 1 over, 2 runs and then the rain returns. 2020 do you not have any mercy?

15:03 – The rain looks to be set in for now and hence I’m off for a cup of tea. Danny will be on the decks when the rain finally clears. Lets hope he has more luck than me. Sean

15:10 – Danny here. Sean has decided to step aside after 25 deliveries, just over four overs. What a slacker…

15:11 – Restart at 15:30, assuming no more rain.

15:28 – They’re back on the field. Roach to resume his third over…

15:38 – Roach bowls a maiden. Gabriel bowling round the wicket to the left-handed Burns. Every ball going on the legs or wide of off.

15:41 – Another maiden from Roach. He’s conceded one run off his first four overs. I’m sure England’s batsmen are thanking Stokes for sending them in.

15:46 – Gabriel has been a lot less economical. He gifted a wide halftracker to Denly who gratefully cuts the ball to the boundary.

15:47 – This marks 4.1 overs after I took over. I think it might be Sean’s turn again…

15:50 – Another maiden over from Roach. He’s been tighter than [insert your own joke]!

15:54 – Denly dispatches another loose ball from Gabriel for four, then edges one in the air through fourth slip. There is a lot of swing in the air and, thus far (10 overs in), the ban on using saliva on the ball doesn’t seem to have had an effect.

15:59 – Roach conceded another run! England have now scored 2 off his 6 overs to date. Joseph replacing Gabriel at the other end.

16:04 – 7 runs from Alzarri Joseph’s first over, off two loose deliveries on the legs and wide, but I think it still looked better than Gabriel.

16:08 – Captain Holder replaces Roach, and he’s got two balls to jump off a good length. Well played by Denly.

16:13 – The swing appears to be dying down, although that may be the new bowlers rather than the ball.

16:22 – A couple of comfortable overs for the English batsmen. Economical, but not threatening bowling from Joseph and Holder. Maybe Roach can come back for a second spell?

16:28 – Bad light stops play. England are 35/1 off 17.4 overs with Burns and Denly still at the crease. I can only assume that this was, somehow, Sean’s fault.

16:36 – They’ve taken an early TEA.

16:46 – Play can apparently be extended to 19:30 today. That would be interesting, since the BBC Two highlights programme starts at 19:00.

16:50 – It may be raining again, with the umpire in the middle using an umbrella.

16:55 – Yep. The full square is covered now and they’re moving to cover the bowlers’ run ups.

17:55 – I can’t see play restarting now. An incredibly frustrating first day of the English cricket season, with barely an hour’s worth of play all day. Fingers crossed that tomorrow will be better, although the forecast isn’t fantastic. One item of interest might be the new highlights programme on BBC Two, starting in an hour. Obviously there won’t be much in terms of highlights themselves, but it might give us an idea about how cricket coverage will look on the ECB’s new free-to-air TV partner.

18:16 – Play abandoned for the day. Sorry we tried our best.

So thanks from me and Sean for reading this. If you have any comments on the game, feel free to post them below.