England not able to escape with their dignity intact in the first Test

The team needs fresh legs and minds, and Stuart Broad certainly sounds as if he is ready

Jason Holder of West Indies celebrates taking the catch to dismiss Moeen Ali of England during day four of the first Test at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados, on Saturday. Photograph; Getty Images

Jason Holder of West Indies celebrates taking the catch to dismiss Moeen Ali of England during day four of the first Test at Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados, on Saturday. Photograph; Getty Images

 

Amid the Sunday morning showers stunned Englishmen and women – players, coaches, fans and pundits – contemplated the debris after England’s thrashing at the hands of a vibrant, disciplined West Indies side galvanised by the increasingly dignified figure of Jason Holder. There is no disgrace in losing but a defeat on this scale – 381 runs – cannot be brushed away as “a bad day at the office”.

Initially there is astonishment that England’s batting lineup, long rather than deep, could be bundled out for 77 in a match where West Indies’ seventh-wicket partnership could compile an unbroken stand of 295. This is a shock, but not a complete shock, as Joe Root and Trevor Bayliss have ruefully acknowledged. England have been this way before. They retain the capacity to implode spectacularly despite their recent successes. They may even have a template to deal with such a calamitous defeat.

It is not all about selection. There is the challenge of restoring the confidence of bruised players and most of those playing in Barbados will be on duty in Antigua on Thursday. But not all of them. The selectors have to respond not only to a batting collapse but also to a bowling attack that became ever more toothless and untrustworthy as the match progressed.

Overseas collapses

There have been a variety of responses to startling overseas collapses over the years. In 1994, when England were bowled out for 46 in Trinidad, Mike Atherton, an obstinate man, declined to change or strengthen the batting lineup – unless you regard the replacement of Ian Salisbury by Phil Tufnell as offering the promise of more runs. In the next Test in Barbados, to the consternation of the cricketing world, England beat West Indies in Bridgetown by 208 runs, the first time a visiting side had won there in 59 years. In this instance Atherton’s stubbornness was a minor stroke of genius.

In 2009 England were bowled out for 51 at Sabina Park in Andy Flower’s first match as coach. He reacted differently. The long-time regulars Ian Bell and Steve Harmison were dropped and replaced by Owais Shah and Jimmy Anderson for the next match in Antigua, which was drawn. Mind you, it lasted only 10 balls because the outfield absorbed the bowlers’ feet like quicksand.

In 2012 in Abu Dhabi England being bowled out for 72 by Pakistan prompted Andrew Strauss to adopt an Athertonian response. He played the same team in Dubai and lost again in what would prove to be Eoin Morgan’s last Test. In Auckland in March 2018 when England were dismissed for 58 the bowlers were the prime victims. For the next game, which was drawn in Christchurch, Moeen Ali, Craig Overton and Chris Woakes gave way to Mark Wood, Jack Leach and James Vince.

Under scrutiny

This time the most likely changes also relate to the bowling attack. After his treatment in Barbados it is very hard to imagine Adil Rashid playing in Antigua, while the attributes and form of Moeen and Sam Curran will be under scrutiny. There will be much staring at the surface at North Sound but whatever the wise men see it is unlikely that Stuart Broad will be sidelined again. They need some fresh legs and minds, and Broad certainly sounds as if he is ready.

This weekend he had plenty of time to devote to his newspaper column, which was brimful of confidence. “I’d have loved to bowl on that pitch. It looked like it suited taller, faster bowlers. Another source of frustration is that I’m bowling the best I’ve ever bowled. Everyone in this group knows it.” Even if they wanted to leave Broad out again, who would tell him? I suppose they could delegate the job to Ben Stokes.

True enthusiast

Depending on the conditions there may also be a case for playing Jack Leach, the most dependable of the spinners and a true enthusiast for the game, who under his big baseball cap mingled among British fans to listen to Sir Garry Sobers being interviewed on Saturday night, and Chris Woakes, who might also have been more effective than his peers at the Kensington Oval.

All these are bowlers, you may have spotted, after a match when England’s batsmen have been dismissed for 77 in the first innings and by an off-spinner, Roston Chase, regarded as little more than a semi-professional 48 hours ago, who ended up with eight for 60 in the second innings. – Guardian

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