Only 99 Runs Behind – Day Three At The Ageas Bowl

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.

James Morgan 


  • A fair appraisal. I reckon that if England manage to bat through today they will be favourites. If Zak Crawley can make a big score in so important an innings it will ensure that he retains his spot when Root returns. Sibley and Burns did well yesterday evening, when a couple of early strikes would have had the West Indies seriously scenting blood. Ideally I want those two, Denly and Crawley between them to do enough that by the time the skipper emerges for his second innings he is thinking in terms of quick runs, rather than needing to dig his side out of a hole. Also, while England are batting I hope someone has words with Archer and Wood to the effect that on this surface they need to pitch the thing up – both bowled far too many short or short-of-a-length balls.

  • Right now I’ve more faith in ‘Old Golden Bollocks’ than ‘Young Ollie’. He’s still chasing the ball too often. It’s almost like he sees the top order trying knuckle down and being in the middle the Stokes and Buttler take them on brigade, sees that as his role. Bess at 8 is our last realistic run getter. Archer is about as much use as Broad with the bat and the last 2 are accidents waiting to happen.
    Unless we bowl better as a unit, an emulate the Windies, assuming we make the 99 to get them in again, we’ll struggle to get them out for less than 200. Their batsman will score more quickly than ours so a bad session would see them half way there. I think questions have to be asked about Archer as a strike bowler, his frail looking frame is still being exposed for sustained pace. Wood we know struggles to take wickets at this level, but at least he gets the ball up there at 90+ mph. There’s no point to an 85mph Archer. You feel his bowling of knuckle balls is just a way of conserving energy. Does he have the necessary engine? Stokes over bowling himself was almost forced by Wood and Archer’s lack of penetration. Anderson and Bess looked a pretty useful combination though and that variety that the Windies don’t have in their 11 would make us favourites if we can bat through today.
    So all told an interesting test match with all permutations still open.

    • Wood averages nearly twenty with the bat, has a Test fifty and looks to have a sound basic technique. The big mystery is why they keep batting Archer at No.9.

      As for being someone who “struggles to take wickets at this level”, Wood’s taken 18/256 in his last three Tests!

      • Classic case of stats being pretty meaningless when you look at his career ones. His confidence maybe higher than before but he’s still pretty straight up and down. As a strike bowler you need more variety to take wickets consistently. Mere pace isn’t enough on today’s slower pitches.

  • If Denly turns into Voges he’ll certainly be polarising, if by that you mean an average of 542 (sic!) against WI, six runs short of an average of 100 against NZ and an average of 20 against everyone else!

    With regard to your Pope question, I’d be tempted to say he already has produced his first match-winning innings, in SA last winter.

  • A propos of something completely different there’s a great article in The Cricketer this month detailing the basic ECB guidelines for playing some recreational cricket. Comprehensive yet easy to understand.
    Oh and incidentally, good morning session for England so far so good. Keep it up fellas.

  • Would give Pope some leeway – he’s still finding his feet at this level and has had no cricket for about 7 months. He’s going to play rash shots, just as long as he learns from them and doesn’t join the ‘it’s the way I play’ brigade.

    Definitely concerned about Archer as others mentioned above. A year ago, 90mph was pretty much his stock ball and after the rigours of a World Cup / Ashes it was unsurprising that he slowed down in NZ / SA, but after such a long break it’s worrying that he’s struggling to get back up to anything near that.

  • What do you do with Jos Buttler ? The talent to become an English Adam Gilchrist and yet he averages only 31.79 in test matches with just one century to his name. He needed to make a substantial score today but was out for 9 playing across the line. It’s infuriating when some one so talented keeps coming up short. Perhaps it is time for Foakes to have a run in the side, he averages 41.50 in his five tests to date and is the better wicketkeeper.
    I fear Denly may have played his last match today. Crawley cannot be dropped after his fine innings today and the selectors should favour the younger man who has the potential to improve. Disappointing that so many of the batsmen got themselves out to bad shots rather than by facing unplayable deliveries. England’s collapse today was doubly disappointing as it threw away all the hard work from Sibley, Burns, Crawley and Stokes. I think tat WIndies will
    get that lowish fourth innings total quite easily on Sunday. But I hope England at least make a fight of it and it’s a chance for Bess to shine. Wood and Archer must pitch it up more too. I would predict Windies to get to their target with 5 wickets down.


copywriter copywriting