There has been a lot of print columns raving about the exploits of Stuart Broad in the recently completed three-Test series against the West Indies in England.
But I think the reviewers have gone a little over the top. There is no doubt that Broad bowled very well in the last two Tests after being left out of the first Test by the selectors. This was a serious error by the selectors and most commentators said as much at the time.
After losing the Test, the selectors reinstated the then 138-Test veteran, who went on to belittle the Windies batsmen, taking 16 wickets in the two Tests.
“He’s bowling better than he ever has” was often the comment, but the usual Pommy myopia seems not to have focused on the quality of the opposition.
The Windies’ batting has been their weakest link for many years and although they have managed to recently win a few Tests and generally be competitive, they still have a batting line-up that would struggle at first-class level, let alone withstand the rigours of five-day cricket.
Opener Kraigg Brathwaite scored 65 runs in the first Test and 75 in the second. He proved his credentials but he is 27 years old with 65 Tests under his belt and is only averaging 33 when 45-plus is the standard. Shamarh Brooks in the middle order produced one score of 68 runs in the second Test, but he is 31 years old and has played only six Tests, so he needs to come good quicky to provide long-term benefits. John Campbell is also early in his Test career as an opener and struggled against the persistence of the English attack.
The enigma that is Shai Hope must have the West Indies’ selectors looking to triple the rum in their daiquiris. Hope looked like a future champion when he first entered the Test scene, but his performances in the last few years have been dismal. Cricviz did an analysis of his dismissals and it shows a glaring weakness against line and length, which is hardly inspiring.
Jermaine Blackwood in the middle order made the highest score for the tourists, 95 in the first Test, but he too struggled for any consistency and looked unable, like most of his batting teammates, to work the ball for singles and let off the pressure.
Wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich managed a couple of scores, but his weakness against a short-pitched ball aimed at his body was bordering on embarrassing at times. He does have the guts to stick it out and made a few useful contributions, which was admirable, but will not be enough in the long term. He is at considerable risk of being hit on the head. In fact, I thought only Jason Holder and Blackwood looked comfortable against short-pitched bowling, Blackwood ducked and Holder was willing to hook.
None of the Windies’ batsmen could apply themselves for the length of time needed to succeed at Test level. In the third Test, Holder top scored in the first innings with 46 and faced the most balls (82) and in the second innings, on a pitch that England had just declared at 2-226, no Windies batsman faced 50 balls.
You can talk all you like about the quality of the bowling, but if batsmen continue to nick off, get out bowled, or fall LBW to balls that do nothing or very little off the pitch, you have to look at the contribution poor batting has made to the bowler’s wicket haul. The ball did swing at times, but no more than normal and nothing that would alarm your average Test batsman.
The Windies’ batting is sub-standard, and they will have major problems making any more than 200 against any quality attack. Coach Phil Simmons was a magnificent attacking batsman, but the Windies need coaching in footwork, building an innings and working the ball, so Simmons may not be the most appropriate coach.
So, yes, Broad bowled well, but he may have taken about half the 16 wickets against India or Australia, and for considerably more runs. Congratulations to him for achieving 500 Test wickets, he is one of the best England has produced (just ask Dave Warner).
It also got me thinking, as I watched England’s keeper Jos Buttler pass the ball to Joe Root at first slip, Root pulled the sleeve of his jumper down and polished the ball using the sleeve of his jumper. No problems I hear you say in these days of COVID-19, no spit or sweat is allowed on the ball.
But has anyone questioned the fact that woollen jumpers contain lanolin, which is a marvellous substance to polish leather with? Lanolin is often used in lip balm. Can you imagine what the umpires would say if they saw a fieldsman rubbing lip balm on the ball? If you don’t think there’s any lanolin left in wool after processing, just handle woolen products for a while and see how much softer your skin is.
Have they been pulling the wool? If it’s legal, which Aussie fieldsman will volunteer to wear the long-sleeve woolen jumper and come to our aid at ball polishing in the Gabba Test, while it’s 35 degrees and 90 per cent humidity?