3rd Test and Windies Test Series Review
A consolation victory, or something more significant? Only time will tell, but it seems unlikely that this result will be in any way irrelevant. England put together a much-improved performance in all departments (apart, perhaps, from their catching) and won convincingly on the fourth day.
As we have begun every review during this tour, let’s start with England’s hosts.
Two weeks ago, we bemoaned the lack of rest for England’s bowlers after being bundled out for not too many in the first innings. Here, roles were completely reversed, and the West Indies themselves fell foul of a rushed second attempt. Gabriel and Joseph, in particular, looked tired in England’s second innings, which allowed England’s middle order to capitalise.
The Windies clearly also missed their captain. Jason Holder has lifted his side with bat, ball, and reviews time and time again this winter, so his absence certainly left a noticeable hole. Surely there has to be a more suitable way of managing over rates than simply dishing out bans. If anyone was guilty of slowing things down in the first two Tests it was Shannon Gabriel, often overstepping and pulling out of his lengthy run. It boils down to whether people want to see ninety overs of cricket, or eighty overs of high-quality competition. Yes, you could argue that players should be able to provide both, but forcing captains to bowl a part-time spinner for five overs a day isn’t going to enhance our viewing experience. Perhaps this view isn’t representative of the majority, but Test cricket is the perfect theatre for drama, and actors’ lines should never be rushed.
The over rate debate will rage on, but no-one can argue against the fairness of this series’ scoreline. England’s opponents have fully deserved their series victory, and there is plenty that will encourage the West Indies: their opening partnership looks extremely solid, their captain has been outstanding, and their bowlers look easily capable of taking twenty wickets. Their performance is fantastic news for Test cricket, too. With Sri Lanka delivering a stunning victory over South Africa last weekend, and the West Indies looking strong, we’ve seen excellent performances from two of the World’s lower-ranked sides. That competition can only be good for the sport, and long may it continue.
Clearly, England’s performance in St Lucia was far better than their previous two efforts. The clearest difference from Barbados and Antigua was the number of runs England scored, and these were shared throughout the team. In the first innings, Buttler (67) and Stokes (79) compiled an excellent partnership to steer the team towards 300. In the second, England’s skipper stepped up and made a brilliant 122, while he was ably supported by, once again, Buttler and Stokes. It seems to be more than just coincidence that these three all delivered during a game that saw them bat in their preferred positions. Okay, so Root hasn’t moved anywhere, but having three ‘top-order’ batsmen above him rather than anyone batting out of position will have helped his cause. Ideally, number 4s don’t want to be coming in against a new ball, with the score 20-2.
England’s captain also made positive headlines after a verbal altercation with Shannon Gabriel. The incident has now been put to bed in exemplary fashion by all involved, but Joe Root’s words reaffirmed the already-established belief that he’s a good guy. As a role model for cricketers throughout not just England but the world, he delivered an invaluable, classy message. Well done, skipper.
It is clear that England found the perfect formula in this game. Many will point to the efforts of Mark Wood as evidence that Sam Curran should have been omitted from the start, and that selecting two spinners in Barbados was a catastrophic error. It should, however, be remembered that the West Indies pitches of years gone by have, by and large, become a thing of the past. During recent tours, the tracks have turned and been generally slow, so that first Test selection shouldn’t be too surprising. As for Sam Curran, his work in both Sri Lanka and England last summer proved that he was both adaptable and reliable.
It would be unrealistic to say that Wood, in hindsight, shouldn’t have played in all three Test matches. Had he and Broad both played from the start of the tour, the result may have been different. Unfortunately for Joe Root and England, though, hindsight isn’t something afforded to captains or selectors before the actual event.
Make no mistake, all is not perfect now that England have won one Test match. Far from it. The balance of the side, however, looked to be a lot better in the third Test. One man who will feel aggrieved to have missed out is Ben Foakes, and with good reason. As England search for answers to the questions around their top three, Foakes must continue to do exactly what he has been for the past few years, and he will get another opportunity. Whether as a makeshift opener or, again, as a keeper/ batsman, we’ll be seeing him in an England shirt again before too long.
It seems likely, though, that England will pursue with this formula heading into the Ashes. The main questions surround the top three positions, and we will have to wait and see who puts their hand up at the start of the English cricketing summer. Elsewhere, expect Anderson, Broad, and Wood to play at Edgbaston in August, barring any unfortunate injuries, and for the middle to lower order to remain untouched.
Again, our own Barmy vlogs provide a great insight into the past couple of weeks. If you do tune in to our latest episode, you’ll find interviews with several extremely enthusiastic fans, views from inside the St. Lucia scoreboard, and Alastair Cook hinting at an England return …
England’s minds will now shift to the 50-over game, with the first of five ODIs coming on Wednesday. Eoin Morgan comes back in, as the side looks to put together a series of wins on the home straight before the summer’s World Cup. Each and every player on that limited overs tour will be well aware, however, that they can’t afford to take their opponents at all likely. If you’re out here with us for the ODIs, then expect more of the same!