After beating South Africa earlier this summer, the West Indies series was billed as a mere irrelevance bolted onto the fag end of the fixture list. England were expected to win well. The conversation was supposed to be about the demise of Windies cricket and how Joe Root’s side really needed a sterner test before the winter’s Ashes series.
And yet now, after one day of the Lord’s test, England are in a spot of bother. Actually scratch that. England are in steaming pile of bother.
This game looks destined to be a shoot out. Which basically means that anyone can win. And if the Windies get the luck (and take the edges), England will suffer their most surprising and humiliating series defeat at home since 1999 – when we lost to New Zealand and fell to bottom of the world rankings.
One could argue, in fact, that a series defeat to the Windies here would be worse than 1999. England were not a good side back then. And the Kiwi team they lost to included the likes of Stephen Fleming and Daniel Vettori.
The current West Indies team contains nobody of that stature, while England’s team includes its leading run scorer and two highest wicket takers of all time. It would be the shock of a generation.
Although a win for the West Indies would probably be good for world cricket, and certainly great for the Carribbean, the idea of England being defeated at Lord’s in just two or three days to the eighth ranked side in the world is extremely painful. Or funny. It’s hard to know whether to laugh or cry in the circumstances.
A defeat would also indicate just how erratic this England team have become. They can beat anyone … but also lose to anyone. The selectors will face some serious questions about their failure to find a single new batsman worth his salt in two or three years. And questions will be asked about Trevor Bayliss too.
However, we’re probably getting ahead of ourselves. If England ride their luck today – I’m putting an emphasis on luck because batting is likely to be a lottery with the ball moving around so much – then victory is obviously very attainable.
And if England win in two or three days, then all that pressure will suddenly evaporate and jobs will be safe. Everything in the garden will be rosy again (even though it clearly isn’t), and the team will head off to Australia in a few weeks’ time with hope in their hearts and a spring in their step … or so they say.
My question to you is therefore this: has there been a more important day in England’s recent history than Friday 8th September 2017? Today might define an awful lot. It could be a real sliding doors moment.