Day One at Antigua


England 341/5 stumps

I don’t know about you but I’m quite relieved! At 34-3 after 16 overs, yesterday had ‘disaster’ written all over it. And then the cavalry came to the rescue – not that I can picture Ian Bell brandishing a sword on horseback.

It was a curious decision by Dinesh Ramdin to bowl first. The pitch was good. But England’s top order seemed determined to prove him right. I won’t be too hard on Trott, as anyone can nick their third ball to slip, but Cook and Ballance looked all at sea.

Apart from one lovely cover drive Cook’s looked terrible. His trigger movement seemed worryingly out of synch, which is always a troubling sign for our skipper. He was eventually bowled through the gate after an exploratory push forward. It wasn’t pretty.

Ballance is also becoming a worry now. We need to give him time, as he played so well last summer, but he looked anything but a test number three yesterday. He shuffled around the crease like a crustacean and looked utterly bereft of confidence. Never underestimate our management’s ability to take a promising young player backwards. Sigh.

It’s easy to forget that Peter Moores was initially criticised for selecting Ballance as a number three (he’s always been a four or five for Yorkshire). The doubters said his technique wasn’t suited to the top order. Moores was proved right last summer, but part of me wonders if this had more to do with the toothlessness of India’s attack rather than Ballance’s abilities.

This is definitely something to keep an eye on. I would hate England to simply discard Ballance before he’s had the opportunity to bat in his more natural position. At some point, the best batsman in the side has to take responsibility and bat three. Then again, Ballance still has plenty of time to put things right.

Now we move on to the stars of the show: Bell, Root and Stokes. Didn’t they play well! Bell played himself in (as is his way) before delivering some of his trademark shots. The pitch didn’t really enable him to drive fluently, but there were plenty of backcuts and pulls. Bell played just the kind of responsible knock you need from your senior batsman. Long may it continue.

Root also played a mature innings – solid in defence, yet always eager to capitalise on poor deliveries. A lot of Australians are skeptical about Root’s abilities, but I have a sneaking suspicion he could turn into England’s Steve Smith. Root looked a little lost at times during the Ashes whitewash – with many arguing he’d been exposed – but he’s improving as a player and could surprise the Aussies later this year. That’s the beauty of young players … they should improve (in theory at least).

It was also encouraging to see Ben Stokes score fluently. There’s something about Stokes that we all love. He’s aggressive, has attitude and is extremely good to watch. The way he dismissed some lacklustre bowling had real swagger. England’s lower middle-order will be fun to watch when Moeen Ali returns.

Of course, we can’t read too much into Stokes performance as the Windies’ bowling was dreadful in the evening session – especially when Ramdin elected to take the second new ball. It’s a topical issue here at TFT, but England’s batsmen will never get a better chance to make a cheap test century tomorrow.

I feel a little sorry for the Windies. I’ve always quite liked Jerome Taylor and Kemar Roach, but they had no support whatsoever. Benn always seems to disappoint me, and Holder looked nothing special.

I never thought I’d actually miss seeing England batsmen ducking and weaving against genuine quicks, but test matches in the Caribbean seem soulless without a little chin music. Of course, the new stadiums don’t really help the atmosphere.

Feel free to add your comments on day two’s action below.

James Morgan



  • Morning James and nice erudite article as ever.

    Good point about Joe Root becoming England’s Steve Smith. I was watching the DVD of the 2010/11 Ashes series the other evening and was struck at how ordinary Smith was back then. A very young man in a side totally outplayed by England (Oh those were the days) has now blossomed into one of the best batsmen in the world and could very easily go on to be spoken in the same way we do Lara & Tendulka.

    Would be great if Joe went the same way, but do we have a Darren Lehmann to drive him?

  • I thought Root was criticised a little unfairly during the Ashes and shouldn’t have been dropped. He was far from the worst batsman and actually stood up very well against Johnson and Harris in Adelaide 2nd innings where he was peppered yet batted for 5 hours for his 87.

  • I was still reeling from the omission of Rachid when England crumbled to 30 odd for 3… surely the perfect opportunity to throw him in, couldn’t of done anymore for Yorkshire/Lions last season??!

    Although I don’t think opening with Trott will ultimately work out (we’re trying to accommodate 2 no.3’s) I can see the thinking behind the batting order; top three slowly building a platform for the stroke makers to accelerate.

    Tomorrow I’d like to see Stokes kick on and Buttler get a score before the bowlers bowl with aggression and dicipline…

      • They don’t want to pick him, because he can’t bowl as an English-type spinner – that is to say, defensively, to give the seamers a breather without giving up too many runs. He’s slow for a spinner, and actually tries to spin the ball and take wickets. If I had to guess, I’d say that they’ve probably asked him to bowl more quickly and more defensively, and he’s very sensibly told them to bugger off. It’s not his game.

        Obviously we’d all like him to be able to keep it tight as well as taking wickets, as Swann could – but even while leaking the odd boundary, he’s clearly part of England’s best team. He’s a better bowler, batsman and fielder than Tredwell. He’s high risk, though, and this England team don’t like that.

        Can you really imagine Cook being able to captain him? If someone hit Rashid for four off the first ball of the over every fielder would be on the rope for the other five balls, and he’d be taken off immediately.

        I’ve just finished the excellent Twirlymen, and leaking runs while taking wickets didn’t seem to do Tiger O’Reilly or Bishan Bedi any harm. One more reason to beg Gillespie to coach the side.

        • Couldn’t agree more.

          Speaking of Gillespie, fighting words from him today:
          “They took all our players away and banned our captain and we still came away with a ten-wicket victory”

          I really like the guy. And he’s right to be pissed that they’ve nicked Rashid to use him as a drinks waiter.

  • Is it just me or do Cook and Ballance look like they read the same book on batting (think Graham Smith had the same one) – both look great off their legs and to short balls outside off, but have the most ungainly approach to full balls outside off.

    Thought the Bell and Root partnership earned the poor bowling by the Windies late on – at 40 for 3 they must have thought they were in, but that partnership kind of knocked the stuffing out of them. It was good test cricket – they set their stall out to bat and not worry about run rate until the ball got older and then opened up as conditions eased off. They set the game up perfectly for Stokes, who tucked in. With Buttler to come tomorrow, it’s hopefully 500 by tea and a declaration sometime after that.

    • James here. Yes that’s the plan. Score 500+ with Stokes and Buttler rubbing salt into the wounds. It will be interesting to see how the Windies bat. All eyes will be on Broad I fear. Have his injuries permanently affected his pace, or will he rediscover his rhythm?

  • Lyth should be opening. Who would you drop for him, Trott or Ballance?

    Great guts and determination from Root, showing again the sort of balls we need in a captain, and another wonderful innings from Bell. Yesterday’s (?) article comparing batsman didn’t ( I think) mention the circumstances in which the players made their 100s. To come in at 40-3 when the ball was still doing something and nearly make it to the end of the day was sheer class

    Love Stokes – the sort of player we have been missing for some time

    I can’t see Rashid getting a go – Tredwell is very much just a stop gap until the bearded one is back in the team

  • I doubt Australians will be ‘surprised’ if Root scores runs during the Ashes. Everyone can see he averages 50-plus at Test level.

    It’s the other blokes who look vulnerable.

    England were 3-34 against the West Indies. Doesn’t that underscore the concerns about the top order?

  • Surely we have to have at least ONE stroke-player in the top three?

    P.S. and is Stokes an idiot (or is that rhetorical?) – overstepping for his “wicket”.

      • ………………and is Chanderpaul the least attractive Test batsman to watch since Gary Kirsten?

        • Chanderpaul is wonderful to watch, in a perverse way.

          He might bat like a crab, but he sticks like a limpet.

  • Bemm turned it square when the pitch was still a little damp. I think Ramdin called it right. If his batters can get to 500, them this England side is under real pressure. It comes down to Chanderpaul and co getting beyond 400. I can see Cook’s side folding.

  • I must also add that I thought that Ian Bishop and Jeffrey Dujon made the best commentary pair I have heard since Laker and Benaud in the 70s. Dujon is so full of insights. It is no wonder that the WIndies were such a great team, with his insights behind the stumps.


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