A good day followed by a depressing one. A depressing one for England, and a depressing day for test cricket in general. Depressing, depressing, depressing.
They say you can only judge the quality of a pitch after both teams have batted. When Joe Root was flaying the bowling to all parts in the morning – and didn’t he play well – I think most of us hoped the surface would look different when England bowled. Or, at the very least, the Windies would show a little indiscipline and throw away their wickets in a flurry of poor strokes – which is basically what happened in the first innings.
Alas, this was wishful thinking. If anything the pitch looked ever slower and flatter. It’s a bowlers graveyard. It makes a result impossible. It’s terrible for test cricket. Depressing all round.
It’s customary in such circumstances – when hope seems lost and the temptation to kick the cat is almost irresistible – to find ‘the positives’. There weren’t too many when England were in the field, but at least we can reflect on some good batting in the morning session. Joe Root is rather useful, isn’t he.
I don’t want to get carried away – this would be rather hypocritical after playing down Alastair Cook’s sustained plundering of runs against ordinary bowlers in years gone by – but Root looks like a class act. He has all the shots. His technique is pretty sound (although he’d do well to get behind the ball more when he defends off the back foot) and he’s got that uber-competitive chip on his shoulder that all good Yorkies should have.
Obviously the real challenge will come later this year, when he faces up to the likes of Boult, Southee, Harris, Johnson, Steyn. Morkel and Riaz, but at this point I fancy his chances. I would definitely keep him at four or five though. His game looks better suited to the middle order in my opinion – mostly due to his tendency to stay offside of the ball, and play with his hands slightly away from his body when defending short balls. Nobody’s perfect I suppose.
It was also good to see Chris Jordan hit a few crisp shots, although Buttler disappointed. We could have done with a hour or so of Jos at his best. The game situation and the lack of bounce in the pitch would have suited him.
As for our bowlers, well, what can I say? The pitch made life extremely difficult for them, but inevitably questions will be asked. Brathwaite and Bravo played very well, so credit to them, but we did look rather toothless.
Broad’s pace was in the doldrums again – thus blowing the theory that his position on the crease determines how quickly he bowls – while Jordan and Stokes also toiled without reward. Anderson bowled a good opening spell, but didn’t threaten much thereafter. I doubt many bowlers would in these conditions.
Mooen eventually found a slightly better rhythm, but failed to take a wicket. Root also bowled a few overs and was tidy enough. Tidy isn’t quite good enough when you’re trying to win games though. If only our spinners had a bit of hocus pocus.
With the Windies already enjoying a small lead, the chances of either side forcing a result today look minimal. The likely result will be a stalemate. A depressing stalemate.
Before this series started, most people expected England trounce the West Indies. After two matches, the score will stand at 0-0, with everything to play for at Barbados. Despite England’s dominance in the first two games, the series will be on a knife-edge.
Depressing, isn’t it.