England finally snatched the victory from the jaws of defeat to gain the lead of 1-0 in the series against Pakistan. This is the first time since November 2018 that England won the first Test match of the series.
The first Test of the Wisden Trophy has just concluded with West Indies chasing down 200 quite comfortably in the end by four wickets.
Here are my takeaways from the first Test at Southampton.
Stuart Broad’s omission
Now, this was a real surprise to me. Broad has played 77 consecutive Test matches on English soil, dating back to May 2008 until September 2019. In this time, the English seamer has taken 305 wickets at an average of 26.7.
Despite the Southampton pitch not offering much pace, England chose both speedsters in Mark Wood and Jofra Archer over Broad. Archer and Wood didn’t offer much this Test, often bowling too short and their lines being out of control at most times. Considering the West Indies bowlers succeeded by pitching the ball up, England made the massive mistake of dropping Broad.
In an interview with Sky Sports during the Test, Broad showed his dismay and disappointment at being dropped, and it’s understandable as to why he was disappointed. This pitch suited his style of bowling. Had this Test been at the Gabba, you could understand why England went ahead with the two speedsters.
Keeping an eye on the future is fine, but you need to play your best XI based on conditions. The English team management need to rethink their plans come the second Test in Manchester, which is another dry surface.
Denly wastes his starts… again
Having made his Test debut around 18 months ago, Joe Denly hasn’t necessarily looked out of place in Test cricket. But once again, he has failed to cash in and capitalise on starts after grinding out for two hours or so.
Take his dismissal in the second innings for example. Denly somehow chipped a harmless ball from Roston Chase to the hands of short midwicket. With an average of below 30 and no Test century to date, Joe Denly seems to be on the out as Joe Root is available from the second Test.
Sibley’s technical flaw is being found out
In the era that is technology, international cricketers are being exposed to video footage by the opposition and having all parts of their game watched by video analysts. Less than a year into his international career, Dom Sibley seems to have been found out.
Quite a few times, Sibley has shuffled across his stumps and ended up finding himself caught down the leg side. In the second innings, Shannon Gabriel had Sibley walking across and gloving one down the leg side to the keeper.
He’s had a good start to his career, but opposition teams will be stationing fielders between leg slip and leg gully to Sibley every time he comes out to bat in the future
Holder sets the tone from the first innings
Jason Holder is a freak of a bowler and deserves a lot more plaudits than he gets. Bowling in high 120s to low 130s, all Holder did was test the English batsmen’s technique relentlessly. The reward of his relentless accuracy was a six-wicket haul in the first innings.
Although Holder only picked up one wicket in conditions that didn’t necessarily suit him during the second innings, his economy rate was only 2.15. Plus, he took the wicket of Ben Stokes that began the English collapse in their second innings.
Batting wise, Holder should be batting at seven, but he has played some quality knocks down at number eight. He did a great job at the end to take his team home.
West Indies batsmen show England how to bat in England
The big question before this series was whether the West Indian batsmen could step up. And they did. The West Indian batsmen showed tremendous patience, especially in the first innings.
The key to batting in England is playing late, and the likes of Kraigg Brathwaite, Jermaine Blackwood and Shane Dowrich were rewarded for their patience with half-centuries. England’s top five displayed better temperament in the second innings, but they still collapsed and gave away the ascendancy to the West Indies late on Day 4.
Keep Buttler out of the Test team for the sake of English cricket
Before England were set to tour Sri Lanka this year (a series that was cancelled due to COVID-19), there was pressure on Jos Buttler to deliver with bat and gloves. Out of nowhere, Buttler was named vice-captain for the first Test in this series.
It almost seemed like Buttler’s appointment was a reward of mediocrity considering he hasn’t hit a century since August 2018. Buttler was recalled into the English Test team in May 2018 following his performances in the 2018 IPL. That itself was surprising to me. Since his recall into the Test team, Buttler has scored 1343 runs in 45 innings at an average of 30.52 (not all as keeper).
He is England’s best white-ball player, but Buttler is far from being in England’s top ten batsmen in Test cricket. There’s a far better gloveman by the name of Ben Foakes, and he has this knack of rescuing his teams out of trouble at seven. Time to hand over the gloves to Ben Foakes and call curtains on your Test career, Jos Buttler.