Tuesday, 29 August 2017

Headingly. Pride before the fall.

The second test arrived without too much excitement, surely all England would have to do to win is turn up?  There is a sub plot here that will probably more interesting than the match.  Which batsmen, if any, can cement a place in the team ahead of the Ashes tour this winter?

England won the toss and elected to bat in cloudy skies; don't they say look up at Headingly?  Were England just a little over confident?  West Indies bowled well with an attack rejuvenated by the return of Gabriel and the captain found his radar too.  Joe Root equaled the record for consecutive matches with a score of at least fifty and Stokes hit a class hundred but England were restricted to 258 and none of the new boys done anything of note, except get out.

West Indies batted and with Jimmy making the ball talk they were soon 35-3.  England had under performed with the bat but it felt like we would get away with it against this opposition.  What happened next was totally unexpected, Brathwaite and Shai Hope put together a fantastic partnership of 246 with both going on to hundreds.  With quick runs from Holder and Blackwood WI took a first innings lead of 169.

At the midway point of the match West Indies were well on top and England's latest batting line up would get a serious test against a confident attack bowling well.  Stoneman passed the test with a solid 52. Westley didn't and simply looked out of his depth during his short stay.  Malan played the longest innings for a hard earned and impressive 61.  These two innings helped the established middle order players; Root and Stokes made good half centuries but WI fought back with three quick wickets.  At 327-7 the lead was 160ish and the match in the balance.  Cue Moeen Ali smashing a quick 82 with support from Woakes with 61* and England are in control with a 300+ lead.

Day five and with a big lead all England need to do is turn up and they will win, right?  How wrong can we be?  West Indies batted all day with 95 from Brathwaite and another ton from Shai Hope and the cruise to a five wicket win.  Wow!  What a match!

Hindsight is a wonderful thing and from here it seems England's decision to bat on the first day was arrogant in the context of this series.  Having decided to bat under a gloomy sky 258 was nowhere near enough runs.  England then seemed a bowler short and hindsight may say TRJ should have been given another game instead of Woakes.  Finally the fourth day declaration seemed a positive move at the time but looking back I don't think England would have done so had they been playing Australia or South Africa.

Throughout the history of English cricket, all of the great batsmen would have batted at Headingly, Bradman himself holds the highest score at the ground with 334.  The ground has been home to the likes of Hutton, Boycott, Tendulkar, Vaughan and Root yet Shai Hope is the first cricketer to score a century in each innings of a first class match at Leeds.  That is some stat when you think about it.

There is a week of rest before the final test of the summer at Lords and everything is set up nicely with the series tied at 1-1.  I expect England will play an unchanged side giving the new batsmen another go to book a trip to Australia.  If I were selector I'd want Roland-Jones back in the side at his home ground because Woakes doesn't seem fully fit and England now know they can't take this West Indies team for granted.  This is now a must win match for England, if they can't beat West Indies on home soil then they cannot expect to win the Ashes down under.

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