Calm Heads Avert Setback

Keep cool, man.

I quite enjoy watching cricket from the Caribbean. It’s not quite what it used to be, when the stadiums were close to city centres, and Gravy was dancing in the stands, but it still makes a nice change. There are usually quite a few cool cats in the stands too – although the coolest two men in Antigua yesterday were probably Joe Root and Chris Woakes, who kept their heads brilliantly when England’s chase spun out of control at 124-6.

Even though yesterday’s ODI wasn’t the best spectacle in the world – once again the pitch was a little two paced and difficult for scoring – I don’t mind the odd low(er) scoring game. What’s more, it was refreshing to see England dig themselves a bit of a hole against spin but then dig themselves out of it for a change. In years gone by we might have panicked and thrown wickets away.

The result meant that we’ve now won the series – 2 up with 1 to play. It doesn’t rank as a particularly impressive achievement considering how poor the Windies are these days, and I still think our best players should have their feet up somewhere rather than playing another somewhat irrelevant ODI series, but it’s obviously better to win games than lose them. Confidence should be building nicely.

Although it would be tempting to wax lyrical about Joe Root after his match winning innings of 90 – and yes this was another feather in his cap – I’d actually like to focus on Chris Woakes. Everyone knows what a good batsman Root is, but Woakes rarely gets much credit for his work with the willow – mainly because he rarely gets much opportunity to build an innings.

Basically I thought Woakes played beautifully in the circumstances. He’s an intelligent cricketer, presents a straight bat most of the time, and usually chooses the right moments to attack. He quickly assessed conditions yesterday, realised it was his job to support Root, and executed his plan impressively. None of this is rocket science of course, but modern cricketers don’t always have the wherewithal to see things through. Well played, Chris.

I won’t go into too much detail about the Windies innings, as we tend to steer clear of regular reports, but I was actually quite impressed by our bowlers for a change. The frontline seamers varied their pace nicely and “used the facilities” so to speak, and the spinners backed them up adequately.

I have no idea what the Windies’ batsmen were thinking though. Several of them threw their wickets away with ugly slogs. One could argue this was because England’s attack kept them under pressure, but I still thought there was a complete absence of common sense in their approach. Had they knuckled down and aimed to post 250 (rather than something more ambitious) they might well have won the game given how England’s top and middle order performed.

Anyway, it’s on to Barbados we go. Let’s hope for more sun, a slightly better pitch, and another victory. Then our players can belatedly get some bloody rest – depending on when their counties want them to report for pre-season training that is.

James Morgan


  • Of course quite a few involved in this series will be off for IPL commitments next Morgan, Stokes, Woakes, Roy, Billings and Buttler. With the likes of Roy saying he will be white ball only until after the Champions Trophy

    Will be interesting to see if England make some changes for the final game, Bairstow in for someone? Or more likely the return of Hales for Billings. Even in the new age of encouraging players to play T20 leagues not sure that extends to resting players about to travel.

    On the WI, its another ‘rebuilding phase’ there have been some good noises coming from the incoming administrators so it will be interesting to see if they can get more of their T20 superstars in the 50 over team although there records in that format are not stellar.

    Also thinking they are making the Cook mistake with K Brathwaite, he has yet to have an ODI innings with a SR over 75 his job is to anchor the innings which I get but he simply doesn’t have the shots to win matches

    • To be fair to Cook, after 30-odd games as captain, he averaged c50 with a strike rate in the mid-high 80s.

      The problem came in late 2013/2014 when his form went down the toilet – keeping him on too long was the issue, probably as a result of the Clarke / Downton axis trying not to lose face in the aftermath of the KP fallout.

      • Yeah Cook was good in that short period where England went to World Number one in 50 over cricket and got to the final of the CT in 2013.

        Still don’t really feel he had that 5th gear, if he got on a flat pitch he would strike at the same rate as a trickery pitch. Dragging down the possible score, feel Brathwaite will do the same but I guess the WICB look at a guy who has had success at Test Level and think he can adapt.

  • At one stage I genuinely thought that England were trying to manufacture a “decider” on Thursday!

    I agree that Woakes is probably the most improved Test player around in the last year or so – his bowling is no longer innocuous, and he can be regarded as a genuine all-rounder.

    • I love Woakes as a cricketer – England always seem to do well with an ‘unflash’ unflappable character – in Vaughan’s team it was Giles, in Strauss’s it was Bresnan.

      Question – if Mark Wood is fit, does Woakes still get in your test line-up?

      • If he can stay fit, Wood should be an automatic choice – unless Finn somehow gets his action back together, Wood gives us that extra bit of pace and hostility to an attack which is otherwise very one paced.

        It would be harsh to drop Woakes from the test team to bring Wood back in – but with Anderson and Broad both getting increasingly injury prone, we may not even need to do so.

        • I’d pick Wood ahead of Finn every single time. It’s not quite so clear cut when it comes to Woakes. A really tough call. With Anderson, Broad & Stokes automatic picks in the test team, Wood and Woakes are probably fighting for one spot. Both merit a place imho.

          • Can’t to say it but I would rather have Woakes than Jimmy at this stage. I don’t see the latter being effective in Australia

          • Difficult to see why either Stokes or Broad are automatic picks. Broad is carrying a long term injury which means he only bowls at his (impressive) best sporadically, and he no longer adds anything with the bat. Woakes is a much better bowler than Stokes and the stats prove he is as good with the bat. Stokes gets the limelight because journos like stupidity like breaking your own hand. I would have Woakes ahead of Broad or Stokes any day. Agree completely about Wood ahead of Finn…..if Wood can ever stay fit for 2 consecutive games.

            • In 2016, Stokes scored c900 runs at 45 against Woakes c500 at 30 so they’re not really close with the bat. They both averaged 25 with the ball (Stokes 33 wkts, Woakes 41) with remarkably similar strike rates. Both played 12 tests.

              Broad and Anderson are still ahead of Woakes at this stage, however that might change through the year depending on how they go.

              • With Stokes and Woakes (a) look at their career stats – Woakes is way ahead as a bowler and (b) consider what Stokes 2016 test stats tell you – his 900 includes the 258 in SA. Whilst it is fair to applaud him for a wonderful innings it means he has a test batting average of under 30 without that knock which rather demonstrates you cannot rely on him at no5 (and has a test batting average identical to Woakes without that knock despite Woakes having to bat with the tail). Woakes at least has a bowling average lower than his batting average, the true mark of an all rounder.

  • Note your criticism of the pitch. George Dobell was incredibly critical of the pitch in his report saying it led to a lack of entertainment. Isn’t the beauty of cricket that on some days 250 is a stiff ask and other days 350 hard to defend?

    I’ve always agreed with Atherton that good cricket happens when there’s an even contest between bat and ball, and the best cricket when the bowlers have a slight advantage, making batsmen work hard for their runs.

    • I think it was more its sluggish nature that bothered some. I’d prefer a pitch with more carry in most circumstances (one that offers a bit of movement). But I do agree with your sentiment though Hamish. Nothing wrong at all with a bit of variety. Sometimes low scoring games can be the most enthralling. I also think that figuring out what a good score is happens to be one of the most interesting parts of the game. I’d every pitch was a belter then everyone would know that 350 is par every time. That would be really boring.

    • Its quite a young team, If you compare it to the Lions side that trashed SL A and Pak A in England. No Malan, Billings, Dawson and Roland-Jones.

      You could also argue that England’s real second choice XI would also include Bairstow, Finn and Jordan. If the first Choice people were fit

      • Bairstow in the 2nd XI? An average of 58 in tests in 2016 and a decent (although not top rank) keeper. This compares with Buttler (aka ‘Hands of Stone’) with an average of 38 in his 3 tests in 2016 and 31 through his career. Am I missing something such as another candidate as keeper/bat? If the choice is Bairstow or Buttler then Bairstow is a no brainer in tests and distinctly preferable in 50 over. Only in T20 does Buttler make a convincing case.

        • I’ve not seen Billings keep (has he done the job at International level yet? He was an outfielder when I saw him in the IPL last year), but I don’t think that there’s much to choose between Bairstow and Buttler behind the stumps. Neither is a Test class keeper; I have the impression (no more than that) that Buttler makes slightly fewer howlers. However Bairstow is clearly the better Test batsman, though I would stick with Buttler for the white ball on account of his undoubted destructive potential.

          • I agree completely about Billings as an option. I have seen him and he is far superior to the other two as a keeper. I had discounted him as an option only because the selectors obviously have preferred Buttler as keeper when both are playing. I agree with Buttler in T20 but prefer batting technique in 50 over. I am afraid I cannot go along with Buttler as a better keeper than Bairstow. I have seen (much) better keepers in club cricket.

  • Agree with most except the idea of highly paid professionals putting their feet up. Even more against telling another country “we’re not coming because you’re not good enough”


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