Not the perfect start to the year at all, then. England have lost this Test series in the Caribbean, with a game still to play. As the third and final game in St. Lucia gets underway, let’s take a look at what went wrong (and, as always, try to see some of the positives)!
Once again, our hosts were excellent. This time, however, it was their batting that really caught the eye. Their application on a tough wicket, against some excellent bowling, was exemplary. They ensure that wickets did not go down in clusters, and effectively won the game by putting a real shift in throughout their first innings.
They also bowled well once again, of course. Yes, they had assistance from the pitch and fingers have been pointed at some of England’s batsmen but it’s important not to ignore the Windies’ efforts. Roach was as consistent as he was in the first game, while 22-year-old Alzarri Joseph performed exceptionally well under some very difficult circumstances. Despite losing his mother in the early hours of the third day, he was instrumental in the side’s crushing victory. Our thoughts remain with him at this difficult time.
Let’s get this one out of the way first, shall we? Once again, it was this department that let the side down. There was a clear disparity between the way the two sides approached their innings. Anyone looking for proof that runs could be made on that pitch need only look at the Windies and, more specifically, Darren Bravo. The Trinidadian is used to paying in much the same way as Bairstow, Moeen, Stokes et al, and yet he put all his aggressive shots away to grind out an important 50. Effectively, the West Indies batted properly on that pitch, while England couldn’t do the same.
In these situations, when the side is struggling, people tend to look for something to blame. Has England’s lack of preparation cost them? Was it the toss? Is it the limited-overs cricket our Test side is playing? The truth is that everything has an impact. Yes, it would have been nice to have bowled first on that deck and yes, two more weeks of warm-up matches would have been lovely. Realistically, though, the nature of cricket these days means that everyone does want to play limited-overs cricket and that high-quality warm-up matches are hard to come by. England need to evolve with Test cricket and perhaps that’s what they’re trying to do. Joe Root stated before the series started that he didn’t mind how long his players batted for, only that they made runs. Had it all gone better this series, and we’d watched Stokesy smash it to all parts on the way to a 90-ball hundred, few would be pointing their fingers at the game’s shorter formats. Let’s bear in mind that Root is still stamping his authority on this Test side. We can’t ignore the fact that there are clear improvements to be made, but we also need to stick by this core group of players.
There are always positives to be had, and even in this series defeat that remains true. Once again, we bowled very well in this Test match. Had it not been for the resilience of the West Indies, Broady could easily have taken a five-for and that lead may well have been a lot lower. England’s second leading wicket taker enjoyed a fantastic return to the side and bowled with exceptional control, especially to the left-handers. How he didn’t take Campbell’s wicket on that second morning is anyone’s guess; Broad himself clearly had no idea what more he could do, as he quite audibly shared his frustrations with the watching world via the stump mic.
Perhaps the only selection debate heading into St. Lucia centres around Sam Curran. The left-armer’s pace and height have not suited the Caribbean conditions, and Mark Wood is waiting in the wings. A like-for-like replacement would have seen Woakes take Curran’s spot, as the Warwickshire all-rounder is handy with the bat down the order, but an injury has forced him out of the reckoning. It will be interesting to see whether Wood’s extra pace might add something to the attack.
Once again, it is such a shame that another Bears man, Olly Stone, had to return home before he got his chance. He almost certainly would have been given an opportunity in this situation, and is exactly the type of bowler that England could do with on these surfaces.
Despite the result, we still managed to have a fantastic time in Antigua, and we can guarantee more of the same during the third and final Test.
Speaking to the locals has also been incredibly interesting. You need only spend a couple of minutes out here, or watching our Barmy Vlogs, to see that Test cricket is very much alive still in the Caribbean, despite what some might say. There is an enormous sense of pride in the crowd whenever the West Indies do well, and a strong Windies cricket team can only be good for the game.
England will be hoping to perform better in the third Test, and to restore some pride. The series may have gone, but there is a lot of cricket to be played this year and it is essential that the side doesn’t lose confidence. A win in St. Lucia would go some way to restoring that. As always, you can keep up to date with everything Barmy Army via our Facebook, Instagram, and Twitter pages.