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England v West Indies

Six takeaways from England’s first Test against West Indies

Six takeaways from the first Test in Southampton
by Wisden Staff 4 minute read

The first Test between England and the West Indies was a cracker and generated plenty of talking points.

In the most recent Wisden Cricket Weekly Podcast, host Yas Rana was joined by Wisden Cricket Monthly’s editor-in-chief, Phil Walker, managing editor of Wisden.com, Ben Gardner, and Wisden Cricket Monthly features editor, Taha Hashim, who discussed some of the significant (and not so significant) takeaways from the West Indies’ big win in Southampton.

Buttler and Denly are under serious pressure

Both England’s wicket-keeper and No.3 are facing the prospect of having their Test careers brought to an end in the near future, following their respective performances in the Southampton. Denly may not even last the rest of the series, with the return of Joe Root and Zak Crawley’s recent runs threatening his position. Buttler must also be looking over his shoulder, as two more failures with the bat compounded by a crucial dropped catch increases the likelihood that Chris Silverwood and England’s selectors will opt for Ben Foakes for the Pakistan series later this summer.

Here’s what Phil had to say on the Buttler dilemma:

“The dismissal in the second innings and the innings itself was alarming and the shot that he played to get out… The balance was all over the place – it looked like he was a bit scrambled in his mind. You don’t really see Jos Buttler play those kind of shots in any form of cricket I would rather give him the old Trevor Bayliss cliché, I would rather give him one Test too many than one Test too few. But if, at the end of this series he still hasn’t made that kind of statement score then yeah I think you move him along.”

On the Denly vs Crawley debate, Phil believes that the former will be displaced by the latter for the next Test match at Old Trafford:

“I think they’ll drop him [Denly] and play Zak Crawley at three from hereon in. Isn’t that obvious? Crawley played a really quite classy and important innings in the second innings when the pitch was wearing and the pressure was on, and he went out and he strung 76. He’s clearly a better player than Denly, with more versatility. Denly’s technique has been picked apart at Test-match level, it’s not his fault. It is what it is. I would be shocked if, come Thursday morning, Crawley’s not batting three and Joe Root is not batting four. I’d be absolutely shocked by that.”

West Indies out-bowled England

Yas Rana: Ben, did the West Indies just out-bowl England?

Ben Gardner: I think they definitely did out-bowl England, they seemed to find the right length to bowl. Jason Holder was just brilliant on that second day and Shannon Gabriel, they kept saying on Sky how many bowled dismissals he got, obviously they targeted the stumps really well. England’s new ball spell is always a fraction too short and that was the case here [in the first innings]. I think the other thing they did as well was they just stuck their task and really knew when to sit in and when to attack with the ball and with the bat.

The key passage of play for me was the fourth evening when England could have batted West Indies out of the game and Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph just tore through them and it was because they were fresh, even though they had just a four-pace attack having at that point bowled a reasonable amount of time and having had such long lay-off where they wouldn’t have those overs in their legs.

I think Holder deserves credit as well for how early he turned to Chase and Brathwaite. If that goes wrong he’d get some criticism for not keeping the pressure on and letting England get away, but he just sat in, tried to contain and then when he saw the moment was there to be grabbed he went to his two fast men and they did the job.

YR: It is quite a relentless attack. They all do different things. Ben Jones from CricViz tweeted something yesterday saying all four bowlers were the best bowler at one different thing, whereas the England attack arguably, you know you’ve got two bowlers whose strengths are quite similar.

England lack ruthlessness with the bat

YR: England had batted themselves into position they could have batted West Indies out of the game then they have the classic England collapse of 30-5 in the evening session. Ben, do you think England lack a ruthlessness sometimes? They could so easily have not lost this game.

BG: Yeah I think they do and the interesting thing is just how the mood shifted with just one dismissal. When it’s Stokes and Pope going and you’re four down and you’re 250-odd and then all of a sudden when one of them gets out you realise it’s an out-of-form Jos Buttler in next, then a 22-year-old Dom Bess and then it’s a not very handy tail. It’s amazing how quickly England’s lower order has gone from being a strength to it to being a weakness.

Sky’s broadcasting was superb

YR: Sky deserve a lot of credit for the whole first hour they were on air on day one. They used their opportunity of having the international cricketing world’s spotlight solely on them to put Ebony Rainford-Brent and Michael Holding front and centre to talk about very personal experiences regarding and facing racism. Those guys deserve a lot of credit for that.

BG: Obviously, Michael Holding and Ebony deserve a lot of credit for just how they spoke. What for me was almost more eye opening, rather than the feature itself, was the discussion afterwards and you could see how the emotion was getting to Holding at certain points, which is obviously completely understandable and only made it more powerful. But he was also able to recall these specific details from all these studies which unarguably made his case and minds would have been changed by that. It was great.

Jermaine Blackwood’s match-winning 95 was bizarre

YR: That was a really weird innings. I know he got 95, I know it was match-winning 95, I’m still not sure it was any good. He should have been out at least four times. He played and missed loads but because he scored 95 everybody says it was a good innings. Was it?

… anyone?

Michael Atherton will read out anything, if he knows a related fact

YR: There was a really really funny moment on day four, it was one of the funniest things I’ve ever seen happen in a commentary box.

BG: So Sky were celebrating the return of club cricket by reading out some of the best performances and notable mishaps that had been sent in from across the country and some smart fellow sends in that a Mr. Jardon, by the first name of Hugh, has taken 6 for 9 against Cockermouth CC which Michael Atherton reads out with real gusto. I think part of what duped him was that he really wanted to say his fact that Cockermouth CC was Ben Stokes’ old club. Rob Key can’t speak for the next five minutes, has to do a third man piece a few minutes later, the first line comes out in inaudible squeaks. It’s such a juvenile joke but obviously still so funny.

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