I’ve often been accused of being a miserable, pessimistic, not to mention cantankerous, old git on this blog. And justifiably too. Therefore, I’m going to give an optimistic appraisal of the match situation today. They say a change is as good as a rest and all that.
Basically, I think England were let off the hook somewhat yesterday. Or rather they got themselves off the hook. At one point the Windies were 267-5 (a lead of 63) and we were looking down the barrel of a massive deficit. It really could’ve been around 200 rather than just over 100. And that might have resulted in an innings defeat.
However, as things stand, England might be able to set the visitors quite a challenging fourth innings target if we bat well today under what should be clear skies and good batting conditions. Can you see the Windies chasing over 200 in the last innings? Possibly, yes. But I’d also give England a good chance to win in these circumstances.
Basically, therefore, England only really need to score a respectable total of just over 300 in this third dig. And we should be more than capable of that on what is essentially a decent batting wicket. It’s no road, and the Windies attack is good, but this is Test cricket. It’s not meant to be easy.
One way or the other I sense we’re going to learn quite a lot about England’s new (or newish) batsmen today. Burns and Sibley have a real opportunity to cement their reputations as emerging Test class openers. If one of them manages to make a ton then the team should be in pretty good shape.
We’re also going to learn a lot about Zak Crawley and possibly Joe Denly. The former is obviously a precocious talent but is he capable of turning a promising cameo into something meaningful and match-defining? Meanwhile, are we witnessing the final throes of Denly’s somewhat polarising Test career or can he turn into England’s Adam Voges – a late bloomer who enjoyed a very productive Indian summer?
Then we come to the middle-order. Can Ben Stokes the captain carry the team on his shoulders with the bat like he did with the ball yesterday? His team selection was wrong (as the performances of Wood and Archer showed) and he probably made the wrong decision at the toss too. Stokes should therefore be on something of a mission. And then there’s young Ollie Pope. We know he’s class. But when will he win produce his first match-winning innings?
And finally we come to Jos Buttler. Or golden bollocks as I’m beginning to call him. We all know the talent is there but we’ve rarely seen it in Test cricket. Indeed, he owes his place purely to Ed Smith’s personal fettish for this frustrating and unfulfilled cricketer.
However, if you give someone enough chances they’ll eventually deliver. After all, even tail-enders make good scores occasionally. So is today the day when Mr Joseph Buttler finally stands up and says “screw you all … I can do this”? Perhaps we’re about to witness the turning point in his career?
It will be fascinating to see how England’s batsmen react today. I’m really looking forward to it. But let’s not forget that the Windies will have a big say in proceedings too. Holder, Roach and Co might just prove too good in the end.
The visitors have a fantastic opportunity to seal an impressive win too – a win which would seem perfectly timed considering the current focus on the Black Lives Matter campaign, not to mention Michael Holding’s remarkable appearance on Sky News on Thursday.
If the Windies do manage to pull this off I’ll obviously be gutted as an England fan. However, who could begrudge Holding a happy moment after his heartfelt appearances in front of the cameras this week?
I’ve always loved listening to Mickey. Perhaps we’ll see a tiny tear of joy at the game’s conclusion rather than tears of pain and anguish.