So what did you think? Considering that we normally lose away from home, and our record in the Caribbean isn’t that hot, I probably would’ve taken a draw before the game. It was even a ‘winning draw’. Sort of. Consequently, this result is a small but very tentative step forward. Sort of.
The main talking point, however, was probably the pitch. It was poor and not conducive to exciting cricket. It offered the seamers little, the spinners relatively little, and it didn’t really deteriorate (which might have enhanced the spectacle), either. It was probably the last thing that Test cricket needed after the dull as dust encounter between Pakistan and Australia in Karachi.
Considering the conditions, however, it wasn’t a terrible game. Both teams kept going admirably and there were decent hundreds from Bonner, Root, and Crawley. The performance of the latter was probably the most significant.
Young Zak is obviously a mercurial player but there’s no doubting his ability. With the selectors unable to glean much from championship cricket played during spring and autumn months, they could probably do worse than plucking naturally talented cricketers from nowhere and trying to develop them on the fly.
I’ve seen enough from Crawley to know that the potential reward for investing in him could be extremely high. Such investments obviously come with a risk, though. He sometimes looks all at sea defensively, and he probably plays too many shots early in his innings. However, it’s nice to see an England opener show some attacking intent. And when Crawley comes off it’s usually very entertaining to watch. I was as pleased as punch to see him do well.
The second innings performance by Dan Lawrence was another positive. I was particularly impressed by his lofted shots over extra cover. That’s normally the sign of a very good player. The match situation worked in his favour, of course, but again he showed enough to suggest that he may have a future. We shall see.
Finally, a few words on Jack Leach. He’ll never be Hedley Verity, we all know that, but he yet again showed that he’s by far the best spin option currently available and he can do a very solid job in Test cricket. He’s accurate, he spins it just enough, but like most slow bowlers he needs overs under his belt and the confidence of his captain and coach.
I’m hoping that Jack can now move on from the Chris Silverwood era, in which he was managed poorly, and become the reliable spin option that England need. Unlike Moeen Ali he offers control as well as a wicket taking threat in the second innings, and although some people understandably remain enticed by Matt Parkinson, there’s no guarantee that the Lancashire leggie will develop as we all hope. England’s record at developing leg spinners is appalling.
England’s seam bowling in this game didn’t look so promising, however. I still find it beyond crazy that both Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad were stuck at home twiddling their thumbs. The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that it wasn’t a cricketing decision. Why on earth would any sane judge leave out so much quality and experience in order to take a closer look at Chris Woakes, who has always struggled overseas, and Craig Overton? We know exactly what these bowlers bring to the table and they’ll never be anything more than support bowlers away from home. What’s more, England just don’t seem ready to trust Mahmood yet – which is perfectly fair as he’s played very little first class cricket in his career to date.
I’m now pretty concerned about the immediate future of England’s fast bowling stocks. Mark Wood has picked up an injury, again, and there’s really no point hoping that Olly Stone will play anything more than a handful of games. His body has left him down time and again throughout his career.
Although Jofra Archer and Ollie Robinson would surely have added something to England’s attack in Antigua, there are question marks about these guys, too. We don’t know if Archer will want to prioritse white ball cricket long term – one could hardly blame him considering his treatment so far – and I find it a tad worrying that Robinson has been a professional cricketer for several years but lacks fitness. It’s just weird. How much does he want it?
So now we move on to Barbados, which is usually a great place for visiting fans. We might even get a game with atmosphere for a change. Can England pull of a win? It’s possible I suppose. But overall I think these teams are fairly evenly matched (on the evidence of the first Test anyway). Therefore, whoever plays the best will win.
Before I sign off, I’ll just leave that thought hanging in the air. The West Indies and England are evenly matched. That’s the West Indies, whose board has been broke and beset by political problems for years, and England, who are rolling in cash and have far greater resources. It’s a pretty damning state of affairs. Maybe Tom Harrison could explain that one before he picks up his ill-deserved bonus?