The weather in the vicinity of Southampton is better today, and it seems that we will get a full day’s play today. This post looks at the goings on since this time yesterday.
Yesterday’s post finished with England having just lost a sixth wicket, ending a stand between Buttler and Stokes. Wickets 7,8 and 9 followed swiftly, but then some sensible aggression from Bess, with the support of Anderson, saw England pass 200, Bess becoming one of only three England batters to reach 30 in the innings (Stokes 43, with the assistance of a lot of luck, and Buttler 35. England tallied 204, and the West Indies reached 57-1 off the 19.3 overs of their innings that were possible before the light intervened (more of this later). England did not start today well, and a running theme was continued when an LBW was overturned on review (on this occasion because the bowler had overstepped, and the delivery was therefore a no-ball), the sixth time such a decision had been overturned to date, and all six have been given against the West Indies by on-field umpires Illingworth and Kettleborough. Shai Hope became the second player out in the West Indies innings, caught by Stokes off Bess, who has had the best game of any England player to date. Then Stokes struck with an LBW, which was yet again sent upstairs, but on this occasion came back as ‘umpires call’, meaning that the on-field decision, and Kraigg Brathwaite was out for 65, comfortably the highest score of the match to date. Shamarh Brooks and Roston Chase stayed in till lunch, and in the few minutes since the resumption have not been separated as yet, with the West Indies now 159-3. Now on to some thoughts about a few specific issues…
WHAT ENGLAND NEED FROM HERE
First England need to bowl better (and the quick bowlers need to bowl to a fuller length than they have been on this surface – Holder was successful for the Windies by pitching it up) and dismiss the West Indies before they build a really huge lead. Get the West Indies out for 250, which is definitely possible, and England will be in the contest, and even if they reach 300 that is not an impossible deficit to overcome, especially given the dryness of the pitch, which suggests that there will be genuine assistance for Bess in the 4th innings if the game goes that far. Then England need to bat well second time around. Denly and Crawley in particular need runs with Root due to return for the second match and Bracey and Lawrence knocking on the door (I would have given Lawrence the no4 slot and dropped Denly in any case). If England can set the West Indies even as much as 200 in the fourth innings that might easily be enough.
This move has been necessitated by the pandemic, but at the moment, for all their strong position the West Indies have a legitimate grievance in this matter – a succession of decisions by the on-field umpires have gone against them, and while all bar one have subsequently been overturned. The one that was not overturned was close, and would also have stood had it been given the other way.
WEATHER, LIGHT AND STARTING TIMES
Not much can be done about rain, but time has also been lost in this match to bad light, which I regard as inexcusable. Natty over at Sillypoint has suggested that pink balls should be used at test matches so that the overs can be bowled even if the floodlights are the only source of light at the ground, which has a lot going for it. The alternative is to keep the red balls for general use, but also have a stock of pink or white balls at the ground, and if the floodlights are the only available light delay play only for as long as it takes to swap the red ball for a pink or white one in similar condition. What is not acceptable is a continuation of the current system, where huge chunks of playing time are needlessly lost due to a desire to stick with red balls at all times. Finally, the Ageas Bowl was chosen as host venue for this series because there is a hotel that is structurally part of the ground, there are no spectators allowed for the obvious reasons, so no one has any commuting to do to get to the ground. Therefore, why the continuing insistence on 11AM starts – today has been bright and sunny down there from the start apparently, so why could play not have got underway at 10AM to make up for some of the lost time?
ENGLAND PLAYER BY PLAYER
- Dominic Sibley – a failure this time, but he has done enough in his career to date not to be dropped.
- Rory Burns – again not a good first innings for him, but he is established in the side and should be retained.
- Joe Denly – his first innings failure took his test average below 30, and at the age of 34, he is surely only one more failure from the exit door.
- Zak Crawley – failed in the first innings, but worth persevering with, although he too needs a big score before too long.
- Ben Stokes – he rode his luck to make 43 with the bat, his bowling has not been great thus far, but you never know when he will come up with something, and although I expect Root to resume the captaincy there is no way Stokes is losing his place as a player.
- Ollie Pope – before getting out he looked several classes above anyone else in the line up, and there are surely big scores to come from him.
- Jos Buttler – I do not consider 35 an outstanding score and think that he must be running out of chances.
- Dom Bess – the only England player whose stocks have gone up in this match, a spirited innings in his secondary discipline and has bowled nicely so far.
- Jofra Archer – quick as ever but has bowled too short thus far and been consequently expensive and relatively unthreatening.
- Mark Wood – see my comment re Archer.
- James Anderson – the usual Anderson, accurate, always commanding respect. It would seem that the plan is for him and Broad to alternate through this summer, an idea I endorse. Broad it would appear has had an on air (TV) ‘toys out of the pram’ moment over his non-selection for this game, but the way he bowled in the warm up match, lacking pace, and largely too wide to pose any great threat he should have no complaints over missing out.
As far as I am concerned, any score that does contain three figures in the second innings should spell the end of Denly, as Root returns. Crawley may retain his spot, but one or other of Lawrence or Bracey could claim that. Buttler should lose his place (but probably won’t, so wilfully blind are the selectors to his faults in long-form cricket) for Foakes. Anderson and Broad will likely rotate as explained, and Robinson, Curran and Mahmood are all possibles for pace bowling slots. Bess’s performance here has underlined his role as first choice spinner, and if at any point there is a surface warranting two specialist spinners the leg spinner Parkinson should be the other. While I have been typing this Anderson has dismissed Brooks, caught by Buttler. This was the subject of yet another review, a terrible call by Brooks since the nick was blatantly obvious. I suspect that Brooks was influenced by the fact that the on-field umpires have been having such a poor game and found it hard to believe that they had actually got one right.
I congratulate the West Indies, and especially Holder and Gabriel, on their play in this match thus far, hope England can pick things up a bit and make this closer than it currently looks like being. I am delighted that cricket has returned, and have greatly enjoyed the TMS commentary on this game. Now it is time for my usual sign off…
Dominic Bess has just nabbed a second wicket to make the West Indies 186-5 – Blackwood gone cheaply. Keeper Dowrich and skipper Holder are both useful batters, but after them are three tail enders.