Former England batter Mark Butcher has criticised some of the decisions made by England in the closing stages of their defeat to West Indies in the opening game of their three-match ODI series in the Caribbean.
England made wholesale changes to their squad for the West Indies series with only six players retained from their World Cup squad that crashed out of the tournament following a run of six defeats in seven games.
All six of those players were involved in the series opener as England lost by four wickets, after West Indies skipper Shai Hope’s unbeaten century from No. 4 took the hosts over the line.
It was a tough outing in the field for England after Harry Brook’s 71 and a 66-run stand for the eighth wicket between Sam Curran and Brydon Carse had taken Jos Buttler’s side to 325 from their 50 overs, a score that looked well above par on a two-paced pitch that was offering inconsistent bounce. England leaked runs with the new ball. Curran, in particular, was expensive, conceding 30 runs from his four-over new-ball spell.
England recovered well in the middle overs with spin twins Liam Livingstone and Rehan Ahmed stifling the flow of runs, taking 3-90 from the 20 overs they sent down between them. West Indies lost their fifth wicket, that of Sherfane Rutherford, with 113 needed from the final 68 deliveries, a target they hauled down with seven balls left spare.
Butcher was critical of how England managed the closing stages of the game, highlighting certain field placements. “Tactically some of the fields were not particularly good,” explained Butcher on the Wisden Cricket Weekly podcast. “You’ve got Sam Curran bowling over the wicket, bowling the ball across them with no one at third man – they kept scything it over there. There was a bit of a meltdown out in the field to be perfectly honest in terms of decision making, in terms of both the bowlers and from the captain.”
“Huge amount of respect for Romario Shepherd [48 off 28]. And then of course, Hope continued to do what he’d done all the way through, which was just completely keep his calm until he got down to the end where he had the chance to play the coup de grace with the three sixes [off Curran to finish the game], the death stick to kill it off with plenty of balls to go.
“It was a brilliant innings from him. And you know, it was England for three quarters of the game. It looked like they were gonna win it but as soon as a little bit of pressure went back in their direction, they kind of folded a bit which was disappointing.”
Butcher also focused on the decision to not utilise the off-spin of Will Jacks on a useful surface for slow bowlers, saying that unless an undisclosed injury prevented him from bowling it was “so obvious that it was the right thing to do.”
“I don’t know if there was some injury or something that prevented Jacks from bowling but England have always been very happy to use more than five bowlers. I can’t remember the last time they used five exclusively and didn’t go elsewhere for two or three overs. You know, they had the the absolute bonus of Liam Livingstone getting through all 10 and bowling really tidily. At times the ball was turning very sharply for Rehan Ahmed.
“Sam Curran struggled with the brand new ball, which he was given and that he is much more suited to, or something that he would want more than coming on after the opening powerplay and it didn’t go well for him. And so it just seemed it seemed entirely obvious, you know, you had Hetmyer in there as a left hander, you could have thrown Jacks the ball for three, four overs. Maybe skip through a few while that ball was turning, while they were still consolidating in the middle and not quite sure how they were going to get down to 325 which would have left you less exposed at the back end, you know, than having to bowl all of the overs of Carse and Curran at the end.
“And then having decided not to do that – and again, I didn’t hear anything about whether there was an injury or some sort of problem for Jacks that prevented him from bowling – but it just seemed just seemed so obvious that that was the right thing to do.”