West Indies 289 (Hetmyer 81*, Anderson 5-46) and 415 for 6 dec (Holder 202*, Dowrich 116*) beat England 77 (Roach 5-17) and 246 (Burns 84, Chase 8-60) by 381 runs
Selection blunder leaves toothless England to hard yards in the field. Local boys: Jason Holder, Kemar Roach, Shane Dowrich and Roston Chase shine as the West Indies subjected England to yet another heavy away defeat in the first test match at the Kensington Oval, Barbados. England fans will have flashbacks to March 2018 in New Zealand as the flimsy English batting line up collapse to 77 all out in their first innings.
The main talking point of the first day was England’s decision not to pick Stuart Broad, who has been their front line seamer along with James Anderson for the past 10 years. Therefore, Sam Curran was Anderson’s new ball partner with Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and Ben Stokes making up the five-prong attack in Bridgetown. Yet, Curran’s short stature and lack of real pace meant he failed to extract anything to trouble the Windies’ openers from a slow pitch which was promised to quicken up as the test went on. John Campbell, the debutant from Jamaica, was dismissive towards Curran, carving anything short or over-pitched to the boundary. He fell LBW, indulging in a sweep, to Moeen to give England their first wicket of 2019.
England would have been pleased with their efforts on day 1 after the final session saw them take five wickets with the second new ball. Along the way, Anderson took his 567th test wicket, meaning he and Broad had taken 1000 between them. But there was something missing in this stat… Broad was absent.
The England hierarchy’s obsession with a varied bowling attack was made to look futile as West Indies’ group of four tall, right-arm seamers had no problem knocking over the English batsmen in their first innings on day 2. Luckily for Broad, he had been given the day off and relieved of his 12th man duties. He would have been working over-time if he had been in charge of racing drinks out to the not-out batsman as England’s trusty middle-order could not propel them from a familiar situation of 35-2. England were all out for 77, losing all 10 wickets in the space of 21 overs.
It may have just been one of those days all too familiar to cricketers up and down the country; a period of play where everything seemed to go in favour of the opposition. Kemar Roach was in scintillating form, swinging it away from the left handers and finding extra bounce to the right handers. Although you could say the English batsmen did not give their wicket away, Keaton Jennings was again caught in the slips, driving down the wrong line off Jason Holder.
Rory Burns was exposed playing the ball too late as the ball, from Roach, rolled off the face of his bat and back onto the stumps. Jonny Bairstow was bowled after the ball had clipped his elbow, evidence that Roach was finding something extra out of the pitch. Holder got one to jag back fiercely to trap Root in front of all three stumps, LBW. Similar story for Stokes who was struck on the back leg to give Roach his third. Moeen Ali came and went before you could say “Nice Gary”, caught at fine leg for a golden duck. Roach completed his 5 wicket haul with a beauty that reared up and found the edge of Jos Buttler’s bat. Fresh Alzarri Joseph picked up Foakes and Rashid’s wickets and the powerful Shannon Gabriel bullied Curran out with a barrage of well angled short balls.
“The collapse not only put the English batsmen under scrutiny but also highlighted the error in not picking someone with Broad’s record, in conditions famously known for helping tall seam bowlers.”
For the second day in a row, England excelled in the evening session. Moeen picking up three wickets with West Indies closing on 127-6. The lead was 339, giving England a glimmer of hope. They had have gone into Day 3 needing just one wicket to expose the fragile Windies tail. However, skipper Holder and Shane Dowrich made England toil in the field. Their contrasting styles complimenting each other in a record 295-run partnership. Dowrich nurtured his way to a classy 116* whereas the 6’7” Holder struck the most sixes in a test match by a West Indian versus England, eight in total. Again this highlighted the deficit in England’s bowling attack as only two men, both from Pakistan, Wasim Akram and Imtiaz Ahmed, had scored more in an innings batting at number 8 than Holder.
There were joyous scenes as one of cricket’s good guys reached multiple landmarks on his home ground. After pulling Jennings over mid-wicket for four, the Barbadian giant wheeled away arms aloft, soaking in the standing ovation from the locals and thousands of sunburnt Brits. Making his 202* from just 229 balls, the West Indian captain immediately declared. Some may not have been surprised by his performance though. Holder was the only player in the match named in the ICC Test Team of the Year, reward for his excellent performances and mature captaincy in 2018. He would then move to the top of the test all-rounder rankings, becoming the first West Indian to do so since Garfield Sobers.
England needed a record breaking 628 to win, Windies needed 10 wickets with just over two days to play. Openers Burns and Jennings survived until stumps on Day 3 at 56-0. However, Jennings, again, was struggling with his drives and was caught at second slip on the morning of Day 4; flashing to a wide one from Joseph. Burns went on to make his highest Test score of 84 before falling to part-time off-spinner Chase on the cusp of Lunch. After the break, the West Indies were immaculate with their bowling and fielding. Apart from a minor blip from Gabriel, who was shown to have bowled a massive no-ball after having Root caught for 1.
England then capitulated to the offies of Roston Chase who picked up staggering figures of 8-60, especially as he hadn’t managed to find much turn from the pitch. The victory was sealed with some clever bowling and sharp work when stand-in wicket keeper Shai Hope had young Curran stumped. England humiliated by 381 runs.
“Not the start England wanted to a massive 2019 which includes back-to-back World Cup and Ashes series at home in the summer.”
The ‘varied bowling attack’ policy may have worked in England’s rise to becoming a superpower in the white-ball formats, in which batsmen have to take risks. However, in test cricket, it is the bowler’s job to build pressure in order to take wickets as batsmen look to protect their wicket. It was clear captain Root had no confidence in Rashid to build pressure who would have expected to be a major role in the second innings. But only bowled 9 overs going for 61. Mainly due to the numerous loose deliveries. Moreover, the right handed West Indies batsmen played Moeen with ease, leaving Root, realistically, with Anderson and Stokes as his only two, trusted options.
Somerset’s Jack Leach, along with Broad, would have been disappointed to miss out. He would have provided control to back up Anderson’s good work with the new ball at the start of the innings. It was an odd decision to leave him out, especially after he had made hay in the Sri Lanka tour which took place in November last year. He took 18 wickets in total at an average of 21 and economy of 2.69 runs per over.
England will have to look to bring in Broad and another bowling option; either Chris Woakes (who is handy with the bat too), Jack Leach or Mark Wood who adds a bit of extra pace which has been sorely missed by England in recent times. Rashid and maybe even Moeen may have to make way. The selection committee could also be tempted to shuffle the batting order, bring in Joe Denly for Ben Foakes and give Bairstow the gloves or at the top of the order, for Jennings who has shown weakness on seaming pitches.
It was not the start England wanted to a massive 2019 which includes back-to-back World Cup and Ashes series at home in the summer. Fortunately, they have two matches left in the three-match series to make things click and be the first English side to win the Caribbean since 2004.