What The?

W

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.

James Morgan

25 comments

  • Well, if Edgbaston was a plan to lull us into a false sense of security, it worked! I actually make WI slight favourites for the game, because they get the best batting conditions (tomorrow). Today will be on and off. If this is the start of a cricket renaissance in the Caribbean, no one will complain. Jason Holder seems to be getting a young/inexperienced side to gel together, and they’ve got some good players. Brathwaite and S Hope look like proper test batsmen (as does Chase, though not on this tour so far). Roach and Gabriel are a proper opening pair, and Holder is steady. I think WI should have played Joseph rather than Bishoo in this game, but I understand they didn’t want to change a winning team. Now up to the “Big Idiot” at WICB to sort out the dispute and get the likes of Gayle, DM Bravo, Samuels and Russell in the test team (which plugs some of the obvious gaps).

  • Yesterday feels like poetic justice to me. Woakes is left out with a snivelling comment from Root to the effect that they picked the best team to win at Lords. As it turns out the bowling conditions would have fitted Woakes like a glove and England must be desperate to have a proper bat at no9 after yesterdays collapse. I describe Root’s comment as snivelling because it is self evidently untrue. If they were picking a team to win one test with no thoughts for the future then they would have brought back Trescothick for a one off stint opening with Cook. Despite his age he is still one of the few bats who is unaffected by the status of the bowling he faces. In addition, as several of the media commentators said, if they were picking on current form then what is Broad doing in the side? He is now a confirmed no11 standard bat (and I understand why his nerve is shot) and his bowling is only effective on rare occasions these days with his pace in the very low 80s too often.
    I am sure the above reads like an attack on particular players. It is not intended to be that. It is trying to expose the hypocrisy of not selecting one players on the basis of one justification whilst applying entirely different rules to the selection of others in the team. I still hope and expect England to win through (subject to weather), but the appalling selection and the brainless defence of that policy by Root make both the selectors and Root unfit for their roles.

    • I think they’re just picking on form. Although he’s a better bet than TRJ in the longterm, I don’t think Woakes bowled well at Leeds.

      • I agree Woakes looked rusty at Leeds but, as Root said before that game, he was played because he needed matches. My complaint is primarily about the application of one selection rule for one player and then not applying the same rule to other (favoured) players. If the decision was made on Leeds form (bowling only since he showed he is a better bat than many above him in the order) then Woakes should have been released earlier for the Somerset game to get the matches Root said he needs. They cannot have it both ways.

    • “if they were picking on current form then what is Broad doing in the side?”

      Well, he took 9/151 in the two matches before Headingley.

      “If they were picking a team to win one test with no thoughts for the future then they would have brought back Trescothick for a one off stint opening”.

      I love Tres but he averages 28 this season so this is patently absurd.

      • But, unlike those selected, he has shown the character for test cricket, has no fundamental technical flaws and produces his best when it matters (such as the last 2 days at Edgbaston). Obviously not an option for anything other than a one off but still the best bet to perform in such a situation (which says a lot about the other options). It would not be relevant except for Root’s silly defence of the Woakes decision.

      • Apologies – I forgot to mention Broad. A bowling average of nearly 36 in 2017, a batting average under 10 and regularly bowling at circa 82mph. Sorry, but that is not test quality.

    • It’s not Broad’s fault if they keep dropping catches off his bowling. England have dropped 7 catches off his bowling so far this summer, plus he’s got a 50 as well.

  • All seems a bit unfair to me. The Windies have bowled well in helpful conditions, both here and at Headingly, better in fact than South Africa did earlier this season. They may have no one of established stature, but you would back them to beat that South African team at the moment.
    England clearly had the short straw in terms of batting conditions, in the equivalent of day night cricket with a red ball. We bowled well earlier in the day, against a rejuvenared side, who will have never come accross anything like the Stokes spell before. Few of their batsmen did anything much wrong.
    As so often with touring sides in this country it takes them a while to adapt, but once they do they become a genuine threat. This is clearly an underrated side and in Shai Hope they have a batsmen who looks as good as Root.
    I feel sorry for the likes of Westley and Stoneham, playing for their test future in such bowler friendly conditions. Even Boycott would have struggled yesterday.

    • I agree that conditions are tough but England were expected to win 3-0. And the Windies haven’t beaten a top 8 ranked side for almost a decade.

      Conditions are obviously having a big say in this game but England are supposed to thrive in home conditions. And at the end of the day, it’s the result that counts. And a 1-2 reverse at home against the West Indies would be an abysmal result.

      • After their up and down performances against a poor South Africa I certainly was not expecting England to win 3-0 against anyone, especially with their dodgy top order.
        It reminded me of David Steele’s batting against Australia and the Windies in the mid 70’s. He always seemed to be coming in and bailing us out from 23-3, like Root, the only difference being the opposition bowling was much better.
        I don’t pay attention to rankings as conditions play more of a part in cricket than any other sport, so every series presents a new challenge, not reflected in the rankings.

    • “The Windies have bowled well in helpful conditions, both here and at Headingly”.

      West Indies did not manage to take 20 wickets at Headingley. I’m not sure you can read too much into one session at a very damp Lord’s in September.

      “you would back them to beat that South African team at the moment”.

      Only if you want to make poor, impoverished bookmakers richer….

      • If the Windies had taken their catches they would have taken the 20 wickets with ease at Headingly.
        On the issue of South Africa, they didn’t appear to have one batsman or bowler of any effective consistency, as their confidence just ebbed away. At least this Windies side have a solid bowling line up and 2 or 3 decent batsmen. Reputation counts for nothing match by match. The Windies have bounced back by playing better cricket than South Africa managed all summer in more trying conditions and been competitive every day since Edgbaston.

  • After almost the whole of the summer and two Test series we are still no closer to resolving the numbers 2,3 and 5 in the batting lineup. Effectively we have been playing 8 against 11 all summer. We have to keep relying on stellar performances from a few players to make us competitive.
    Selectors and coaches should be asked some tough questions regarding their performance and enlighten us as to their thinking and what they actually do.

    • Agree totally. Maybe we should start a petition to force Whittaker into the open about this. Picking players with blatant technical flaws cannot work in the long term. Coaching needs to be improved.
      Seeing England coaches working to help correct Wesley’s off side play by batting using only the left hand spanked of desperation. You cannot correct bad habits overnight. Why wasn’t this issue addressed years ago, before it became a habit?
      If the England set up made it clear that players with technical limitations could not be considered for selection, maybe this would act as an incentive to direct talent better at an early age.

  • I was at Lord’s yesterday behind the bowlers arm in the pavilion and it was as if the England bowlers were playing with a cheap old ‘half ball’!! Ridiculous swing and seam made batting a lottery. They should give that ball a full full quality test if they can rescue it from Stokes’ bag!! But the Windies pace attack has little experience with swinging the ball so we can only blame our batsmen for their failures. Very good day’s cricket though all the same and I’ll be up there again tomorrow for the start!

  • easy girl,
    let’s enjoy this match as it is now a good occasion for cricket and far more interesting than if the Windies had been dire. All of this is based on an if – but if England do lose it will not have been to a poor Windies side. Any away team that has won a test in England must have put in good performances, like the Windies did last week. England weren’t that bad a Headingley other than perhaps misreading how true the surface was. Despite all the talk being that the Root declaration was a good one I reject that thinking as England lost the game having grafted to get into a position of strength on a dead pitch. Once again the Warne, Vaughan etc brigade shout the loudest on these things and are too stubborn to admit that sometimes a draw is a good result.

    There are a lot of ways this England side can be made to look sub par but I don’t believe it is, aside from the top order. I still feel that England do not have enough good batsmen to afford Moeen to bat at 8, he averaged 50 last year and mainly batted in the top 7. I think it is a matter of time before Hameed comes back and others will disagree but an England 3,4,5 of root, malan, balance would be stronger than it is now. Root wanting the 4 spot is still the undoing of this lineup, I have heard that the selectors wanted root and gary the other way round at the start of the summer but root was firm that he wanted to move away from 3. (he was pretty good there).

  • No not Balance. You can’t keep revisiting players who just can’t do it at Test level. Its a waste of time. I heard Robson mentioned…again.Trescothick. Please! Still a good player but apart from a recent 100 poor form this year. He wouldn’t do it anyway. Malan will be a walking wicket in Australia. Try this:
    Cook
    Stoneman, reserve opener Hameed
    Duckett, take a punt!
    Root, don’t move him to 3!
    Hayles, far better than Malan

    • Please read the Trescothick post again. I said he should have been in for Lord’s if Root’s justification for leaving out Woakes (picking a team to win one particular test) was true. No one has suggested bringing back Trescothick for more than the Lords test.

      As for your line up. Hameed has test technique and the sooner he is back for Stoneman the better. Duckett is a T20 bat they are trying to convert. Get his technique right for red ball before another chance. Hales at 5, although he is not good on shot selection, is a gamble but an interesting one.

  • Tests are much more interesting when ball dominates the bat . Also, a hard fought 50 is more interesting than the usual run fests

  • The most entertaining moment of an entertaining test (so far) was Ian Botham’s comment that the Windies should set a 9-0 offside field to Broad as it was impossible for him to hit it leg side.

    • He cops a lot of flack for stepping to leg all the time but is there much difference in his average pre- and post- getting hit in the head?

      • Yes – the main difference is that Broad can remember most of his innings before he copped one in the face, but since then he can’t.

By James Morgan

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