Yesterday was a good day for England. Most of our batsmen got runs and the scoreboard look’s healthy. But this statement comes with a caveat. Have we left ourselves enough time to bowl the West Indies out? Hmmmm. We’ll get to that in a bit.
First let’s talk about the individual batsmen. What did you think of Trott? Personally I thought he looked pretty solid. His half-century will do him the world of good, and once again it took a useful delivery to get him out. But did he accelerate enough when set?
Next we come to the skipper. Cook looked a lot more composed out there, and despite his quirky method he looked relatively assured (that’s relative to his recent performances).
I wonder how much this had to do with the nature of the Windies’ attack though? Spin was the order of the day for much of Cook’s innings – not quality pace bowling – and we all know he’s a very capable player of spinners.
The pace of Cook’s innings also concerned me. Was he playing for himself or the team? Yesterday seemed to be about one thing: whether Cook could finally get a hundred. It was the only subject social media was talking about, and very much the focus Sky’s commentary team.
On one level this is understandable – Cook’s poor form has been a massive talking point for the last two years. It’s extraordinary that any specialist batsman can go 34 innings without a ton. Ordinary mortals are dropped in half that time. Captain’s have resigned for far less.
However, I found the preoccupation with Cook’s pursuit of three figures disturbing. England had a game to win. Grumpy Bob hit the nail on the head when he said England’s scoring rate in the first session was unsatisfactory. Yet this went almost unnoticed.
I hope people don’t regard Cook’s failure to reach three figures as a failure. The bottom line is that he scored runs. They were somewhat fortuitous – much like his runs against India last summer – but he got there in the end. I doubt people will remember that he was dropped on Wednesday evening and that he was stone dead LBW just before lunch. Hallelujah for the idiosyncrasies of Hawkeye’s predictive tracking system! The scorebook says he scored 75. That’s enough to ease some pressure for now.
In some ways, the earlier part of Balance’s innings fall into the same bracket. At 125-1 England could have done with a little impetus. The balance of England’s top three is a worry, and one wonders whether Adam Lyth would make a difference – just to split up the three snails.
However, Ballance looked a different player once Root strode to the wicket. Root looked totally assured, raised the tempo, and England never looked back. Suddenly, Ballance also started to find the middle of the bat.
For someone who hangs on the back foot, England’s number three drives with beautiful fluidity. Cook would do well copy him. I’ve also been mightily impressed with the sudden transformation in Ballance’s game. He was jittery and uncoordinated in the first innings at Antigua, yet he’s rediscovered his Midas touch after a single good score. This is what we hoped would happen with Cook. I suppose the skipper is a more complicated case.
As for Joe Root, what else is there to say? He looks England’s best player by a country mile. He’s the key man in the order. It’s hard to tell how much these runs are worth – this Windies attack obviously isn’t the best – but my hopes for him are high. The acid test will come later this year.
I’ve probably rambled on for too long now, so I won’t go into too much detail from here. Basically Mo looked nervous – so nervous that he ran himself out. And Stokes seemed up for the fight … literally. I think we can forget about calling him ‘Gentle’ Ben. His spat with Samuels was a tad unsightly.
Now comes the million-dollar question. How many more runs do we need, and how long do we need to bowl the Windies out?
Given that four sessions wasn’t enough to bowl them out in Antigua – and given that this pitch is even slower – we might need close to five sessions to force a result. Do we have enough time?
In an ideal world, Cook will want a lead of two hundred. This means we’ll need an additional 130 runs before lunch – a tall order I’m sure you’ll agree. Basically, I fear the top order has left the lower order with too much to do.
What’s more, England could easily get bowled out cheaply this morning in the pursuit of quick runs. Although this might actually hasten a result, it could leave us with a tricky run chase on day five.
Basically, I’m not sure the equation is a simple one. It might take a special performance from one of our bowlers to force a win – not an easy task on this turgid pitch.
I wouldn’t be surprised if Cook ends up with no ton AND no win.
Thoughts? Feel free to add your comments as day four progresses.
Can’t disagree with much of that (damn) :-)
Plan for the day. Attack, attack, attack. If still there declare half an hour before lunch, even if only a 150 lead.
We will bowl them out, I can’t see the West Indies puting up a fight twice in a week, agree the pitch looks slower but we do have Mo who can produce the odd magic ball.
If they bat for 90 overs at 3ish we’d need to knock 120-150 off in 60. Easy does it.
Have to agree about the pace of the innings James. Sedentary would be an understatement! I know the pace of the pitch was slow and some of the bowling precise and hard to get away, but they really do need to kick on and force a result. How would a drawn series against the WI’s look? With New Zealand and Australia coming up this summer, surely we need to beat this very ordinary WI team comprehensively?
Oh and if England need a player who can quicken the pace, take games away from the opposition, then I think Surrey have an up and coming young South African who may fit that bill!
What would KP done differently to Joe Root?
Yes I’m a big Jason Roy fan …. ahem.
Moeen and Stokes throwing their wickets away is unacceptable. Moeen panicked and went for a run that was never there, while Stokes was more interested in winning his personal battle with Marlon Samuels than in putting in the big (and quick) innings England needed. Disgraceful.
Root magnificent as usual. Ballance still strong, although he’ll be gutted to miss out on a century.
Cook and Trott encouraging, albeit against pretty ordinary bowling. Most importantly of all, they did their jobs: see off the new ball and lay some sort of foundation for the middle order to build on. It’s the first time we’ve seen an England opening pair do that for some time.
Weather notwithstanding, this one is in the bag. Even an Alastair Cook-led England side couldn’t possibly throw this position away, could they? Smash a few more before lunch, declare and then have five sessions to bowl out the Windies, who are far too impatient and impetuous to survive that long.
Good summary James
“I found the preoccupation with Cook’s pursuit of three figures disturbing” – I think given he’s passed 50 4 times in his last 7 innings (something which had passed me by), we all might be guilty of that Morgs ;) a 50 a piece from the openers guarantees at a century stand and we’d all take that every time wouldn’t we?
Regarding setting up the win; I think giving time to take 10 wickets is more important than batting them out of the game, chasing down 100 to win off 30 overs shouldn’t be too difficult* (*ahem this is England)
Just to add – it was refreshing to see Bishoo operate yesterday. There’s just something about see the ball turn right to left that’s so satisfying, bamboozling a batsmen or a left hander creaming a half tracker through mid wicket!
Yes I enjoyed watching BIshoo too. Legspin is always entertaining. Something usually happens.
I like your pieces. They often set the base nicely for more spirited discussion later. Of course, as the opener your pieces can be afforded more time and space to get to the point than other contributors, but they often do get “there” and they often lead the way and form the character of the subsequent debate. But then….but then you go and spell Gary Ballance’s name wrong. Time and time again. Despite the wide availability of spell-checkers and, presumably, plenty of practice and coaching behind the scenes. Then you sometimes spell it correctly, showing, I suppose, that you do know the right spelling.
So, I’m afraid I think that you must go. Many ordinary writers would be sacked for such frequently-repeated and unforced errors. Wouldn’t they? I think that might be what a Cook supporter might think. Don’t you?
(Really, really only meant in jest of similar nature to Marlon Samuels hilarious send-off to Grumpy Stokes yesterday which made me laugh out loud. Classic.)
To be honest, it’s probably the speel cheeker that’s changing it back to “Balance” mooost of the timm.
I think James’ spelling issues have to be assessed in the light of his previously unparallelled record of spelling players’ names correctly. I think this can be put down to a temporary loss of form, and we are sure that in the long run, he’ll recapture former glories. He’s possibly the greatest surname speller we’ve ever produced, and we refute those critics who say he has been found wanting against high quality surnames like Sri Lankans, and and in consonant heavy Southern Africa with Tsotsobe and Mbangwa.
He has been hampered by the World Cup, where a plethora of Celtic and Afghan surnames took him out of his natural comfort zone, but be assured he’s working hard to put things right. He’s also been severely let down by a lack of support from senior players, particularly Maxie Allan, whose recent non-performance has heaped pressure on James’ shoulders.
And what on earth is Ballance, like Swann before him, doing with those random extra consonants anyway.
He just needs to upskill and execute his plans a bit better.
and Buttler to boot
Best. Comment. Ever
Ha ha ha! That’s Superb Hamish.
It’s the bloody wordpress spelling editor!!! It’s incredibly annoying. Even when you spell it correctly with two ‘L’s it automatically changes back. I then go back and change it again, only for it to auto correct later without my permission. Aaaaarrrrrgggghhhh. What’s my average re: the misspelling of Balance, I mean Ballance?
However, I found the preoccupation with Cook’s pursuit of three figures disturbing..
I have to confess that I felt something similar about the Anderson wicket record. Granted it’s of far more lasting significance than whether or not captain corageous (/irony) can manage to crack three figures again before he retires, but it swamped any consideration of the state of the match, or even whether he was bowling particularly well or not.
There is a tendency for most organisations to be run for the benefit of their senior members, but it is one I deprecate.
Arghh! (extra h for balance…) – No bowling plans B or C, let alone some intuitive changes in attack, (round the wicket, alternative fields…) Bowling by numb-bers…
It’s a turgid pitch, but we don’t look threatening. Lacking genuine pace and mystery spin :-(
James, the spat between Stokes and Samuels “unslightly?” Really? Oh dear, you are soooo English.
Personally, the salute send off was unique, hilarious and timed superbly. Stokes is a bit of a bonehead, so he kind of looked the part when he walked past Samuels and meekly dribbled something. His mistake was to look at him and pass comment – again, a bonehead.
England not comfortable by the way, they threw away a great position which NZ and Australia will not allow them to.
Sorry, still giggling at Samuels send off to Stokes – theatre.
I should rephrase that really. I thought Stokes’ behaviour was unsightly. I think he probably got what he deserved! The verbals were a bit OTT. He’ll learn from that as Samuels undoubtedly won that round.
ok now lets just hope that WI dont collapse today and then they sneak of a win in third test, that should make sure we get ready for aus nz the year ahead in earnest and not play we are getting back into form game.
Any other team would have experimented the opening combination and bowling combo by now. lyth plunkett and wood, rashid by now.