@Yas_Wisden 5 minute read
England bounced back from a defeat in the series opener at Southampton to regain the Wisden Trophy with back-to-back victories in the two Manchester Tests. Here are seven takeaways from England’s series-clinching win:
Early signs are encouraging for Burns and Sibley
Not since Alex Hales and Alastair Cook at home to Sri Lanka in 2016 have both England openers averaged over 45 across a series. Both Dom Sibley and Rory Burns can be ungainly at times. They occasionally attract criticism for their strike-rates and they still have had some trouble this series that will give some cause of concern ahead of their tours of India and Australia – most notably Burns against the off-spin of Roston Chase and Sibley against balls directed towards his armpit.
But the pair have regularly laid solid platforms for their more flamboyant teammates down the order to make the most of. After 10 innings together, they average 43 runs per innings as a partnership; Strauss and Cook averaged 40.96 together. It’s early days, but the signs are encouraging.
Buttler hangs on to his spot for Pakistan series
With no half-century since the 2019 Ashes, even Buttler’s most ardent supporters were struggling to justify his spot in the side ahead of the Pakistan series. Coming in at 122-4 on the first day with England fielding a longer tail than usual with Chris Woakes carded to come in at No. 7, Buttler’s 140-run stand with Ollie Pope was crucial in helping stave off a middle-order collapse that has become all too customary for England in recent years. Foakes was reportedly very close to making the XI in Manchester and while Buttler’s 67 won’t win over his doubters, it was a timely knock that will almost certainly see him retain his spot in the side.
Bess’ silence speaks volumes
For the second home Test in a year, England, with Ben Stokes unavailable to bowl, got funky with the balance of their side as an additional seamer was brought in at the expense of Zak Crawley. If Stokes, as is likely, is fit to bowl in the first Test of the Pakistan series, England will surely revert to fielding an XI with Stokes plus four bowlers as their bowling attack.
Dom Bess did not bowl a ball in either innings of the series finale. The off-spinner bowled serviceably in the first two Tests, showing enough control to allow Stokes and then Root to rotate their quicks around him at the other end. But with competition for selection in the seam-bowling department so fierce, England may be tempted to persist with the all-seam option that worked well in Manchester.
That said, part of what makes Bess such an enticing cricketer is his ability to make an impact with all three disciplines. Aided by a trio of not outs, Bess averaged 83 with the bat across the series while his run out of Roston Chase on day five was one of the moments of the Test.
Windies batting is holding them back
Don’t be fooled by the final-day tension at both Manchester Tests; West Indies were resoundingly beaten in both. Washouts and intermittent showers kept their hopes of staying in the series alive, but not a whole lot else. The bottom line is that West Indies passed 300 once in the series, and were bowled out for less than 200 on three occasions. The batsmen let them down. Jermaine Blackwood aside, not one of their batsmen averaged over 33 across the series; Shai Hope and John Campbell provided particularly disappointing returns with neither passing 35 all series.
Woakes quietly moves up the pecking order
For a fourth Test in a row, Chris Woakes was mightily impressive with the ball. This time, he got the rewards to show for it. Since last summer’s Ashes, he’s taken 18 Test wickets at 20.16. In the same period, Jofra Archer – England’s star during that Ashes series – has 12 wickets at 48. Broad aside, Woakes was the most threatening bowler on show.
Broad the bowler to build an attack around?
So much talk surrounding Stuart Broad and his great mate James Anderson going into this summer was about how England will need to manage the last acts of the pair’s England careers. But as Broad has been at pains to point out, he is nearly four years younger than Anderson. Why should he be talked of in similar terms?
After being left out in Southampton, Broad was excellent in the first Manchester Test and even better in the second. Irked by his omission, Broad looks hungrier than ever for success. His recent form – Broad has 64 wickets at 20.37 since the start of last summer – is arguably better than it’s ever been and with Anderson turning 38 before England’s next Test, Broad may now be the bowler England build their attack around.
Five wins in a row for Root
Root may still be searching for his best form with the bat, but he is currently going through the most impressive spell of his captaincy. More than three years after taking over from Alastair Cook, Root’s five Test wins on the bounce as skipper have seen him finally look settled in the role. He expertly guided England through two rain-affected games that could easily have been drawn to turn the series around. From the timing of his declaration to keeping the intensity high after West Indies avoided the follow-on, Root didn’t get a whole lot wrong in Manchester. With the benefit of hindsight, England may have missed his captaincy more than his batting in Southampton.