First up – great victory by the West Indies.
Miles from home. In a quarantine bubble. Without three top players in addition to all the other more standard West Indies problems – mainly, losing potentially excellent Test men to IPL specialisation and English citizenship (hi, Joffra!).
It was magnificent work.
A splendid game. I was up to 3am watching it, with that eerie silence in the background.
I’m so happy for the whole team – and region. Especially Jason Holder who probably has the hardest captaincy job in Test cricket.
He did have some help from England’s selectors, whose arrogance and ignorance continues to ensure their country is a second-tier test nation despite its abundant talent pool and financial resources.
There’s been a lot of comment about whether Stuart Broad should’ve been picked over Mark Wood.
Maybe Broad would’ve made a difference.
Maybe he would’ve played worse.
That was a tough call. But a fair call.
Where England went wrong was in its batting selection.
The West Indies have a decent bowling attack but their batting is a shocker.
This is a team where only three players in their test eleven have a first class batting average over 35.
England should be able to win every test match simply by out-batting them.
But their arrogant selection panel continues to think first class numbers are for wimps.
Joe Denly averages 36 at first class level. Zak Crawley? 31.
What are they doing in the test team?
Good team men? Good fielders? “They just have what it takes”?
Well, sure, maybe they do, but can’t they prove it at first class level before being shoved into the test arena?
It’s not as though there aren’t other options. They’ve tried some (Dawid Malan, Mark Stoneman, Gary Ballance) and seem to have lost enthusiasm for others (Jonny Bairstow).
But you know how hasn’t been tried? Hasan Azad (first class average of 50), Sam Northeast (39), Chris Dent (38.5), Ben Brown (40), James Hildreth (42.59), Liam Livingston (41.6).
First class averages don’t tell the whole story but they tell a lot of the story – more story than the brilliance of Ed Smith.
No-one seemed to like Rory Burns as an opener but his figures were so damn good that he got his shot and, hey, wow, gee, shock, he did a hell of a lot better than any non-Cook English opener over the past few years.
That criteria needs to be applied down the order. Maybe Zak Crawley has ‘What It Takes’ but can he earn his stripes a bit more in county cricket instead of having a spot gifted to him?
And if numbers are to be discounted for being scored in Division 2, as some have argued, then… actually why does that happen?
Is the “I can tell a good player by looking at him” method better?
What’s the point of having county cricket Div 2 if you can’t use it as a test guide? It’s professional first class cricket isn’t it?
Go off numbers. Or at least, use them more than you do.
England also has to understand that it needs to compensate for Ben Stokes’ batting. He’s a wonderful player but he’s not a specialist bat, and has always – always – been more effective in tandem with another all-rounder.
I know they want Joffra Archer to be that, but I don’t think it’s going to happen, and what’s more they don’t need it to, with Ali and Sam Curran available for selection. If they want to play a better spinner than Ali, sure, fine, then pick Curran to counter-balance Stokes.
You can’t pick one all rounder, it unbalances the side, you need two.
I know no one really cares but it’s my article so I think England’s team for the next Test should be:
As for that changes the West Indies should make… that’s trickier. They don’t have a lot of depth. (I think the rules on qualification to play international cricket for a country should be loosed up to help poorer nations but that’s a bigger issue for another time).
Their weakness is batting but it’s not as though there’s champions sitting on the bench. For whatever reason the bulk of top West Indies batsmen average around 30 at first class level.
I like the look of Terrance Hinds, and am surprised Brandon King isn’t in this squad. And please can we not lose Nicholas Pooran from first class cricket. But still, it’s slim pickings.
So the West Indies need a strong lower order. For the next test I’d bring in Cornwell who not only gives you spinning option but is a decent lower order bat. I’d also give some thought to bringing in Da Silva up the top. My team:
3) Da Silva (if King was available I’d play him and Da Silva instead of Simmons/Brooks)
Oh, and PS – Test cricket, it was great to have you back.