Thursday, 14 February 2019

Test Series Post Mortem

How can England be so good in Sri Lanka but so poor in West Indies?

Mindset - In Sri Lanka England knew they would be underdogs and have a tough fight in difficult conditions.  They rolled up to Barbados as favourites thinking all they had to do was turn up and they would win.

Selection -  The squad picked for Sri Lanka was good, the teams selected for each match were excellent, the captain had options and the players delivered.  To pick an unchanged squad for West Indies can be understood, especially as spin had played a big part in Caribbean cricket in the last few years.  However over the last couple of seasons groundsmen have been encouraged to produce pitches with a bit more pace and bounce.  Did Team England not do their homework?  
In hindsight we needed more tall fast bowlers.  Even so a far more potent attack could have been selected for the first test from the players available.  The omission of Stuart Broad for the first test was one of the worst selection decisions I can remember.  Picking two spinners was a selection based on history, not the pitch in front of them.  Sam Curran is a cricketer of obvious talent but should be seen as a batting all rounder, he was never likely to take more wickets than the seamers he was picked ahead of.  The team for the third test had a much better balance but Foakes was unlucky to be left out, we can only assume he is not in England's plans going forward which is a shame, he's the best keeper I've seen for a long time.

Captaincy - I do not rate Joe Root as a captain.  Yes he done well in Sri Lanka but then we had the media talk of "This is Root's team now..."  How much did this influence the awful selection for the first test?  The omission of Broad in particular, Root feels undermined as captain when both Broad and Anderson play.  Why did it take 50+ overs before Anderson got a bowl from the Ambrose end at Antigua?  How can Root feel qualified enough to over-rule fielding positions for bowlers who have over a thousand test wickets between them?

Fielding - England clung onto some blinding catches in this series but they also dropped far too many, some were tricky but others were anything but.  The fielding in Sri Lanka was excellent but standards dropped on this tour.

Batting - England's long time Achilles heel has been the top three.  Bairstow had come in at number three and done well enough to keep the job for some time, then the selectors changed their minds again.  We are still struggling for openers and we have to put up with Team England saying something along the lines of "If the top three don't make the runs, somebody else will..." This is total bollocks.  We need to find a couple of decent openers, of the players that have come in in recent years Compton and Hales have done better than most.  Given that most of England's problems have come at the top of the order why was their no reserve opener?  Of the top three that took to the field for the third test both Burns and Denly have probably done enough to earn selection next summer, provided their county form is up to scratch.  Who will be the next player to be tried in the top three?  That's anyone's guess...

All rounders - We have at least four decent all rounders but trying to force more than two into the side at a time is weakening both the batting and the bowling.  Curran is a good player but is not suited to bowling in the West Indies and there are definitely better wicket takers available.  Ali is a good player but is he a better spinner than Leach?  Maybe, maybe not but he has been in decent form this winter so should be considered our number one spinner for the time being.  He should be picked as a spinner and bat at no.8, any runs he gets from here will be seen as a bonus.  Stokes is assumed to be a world class all rounder but has been so inconsistent.  He looked better batting at no. 6 in the last match and should be seen as a fourth seamer and have a work load to suit.

Bowlers - The attack for the third test was very good and this should be the model going forward.  Broad and Anderson must play if fit.  With Stokes and Ali we have bowlers that will contribute with the bat too.  Mark Wood bowled brilliantly in the last match but can he hit 90mph consistently?  If he can't then we need to find bowlers that can.

West Indies always seem to raise their game for England which leaves me thinking they've turned a corner and are a team on the up, sadly this never seems to happen.  Their bowling attack is right up there; their fielding was excellent but the batting looks shaky.  They shouldn't try to bat like the great players of old.  England are a better team than West Indies and should not have lost this series.  However in test cricket, more than any other game, the best team wins and 2-1 was a fair reflection of the cricket played.  But for an England supporter it was bloody frustrating!

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