Reset, and refocus. After 5 days of arduous toil on an unforgiving Antigua deck, the sequence swings south-east to Barbados, the place the floor – to evaluate by a run of seven consecutive outcomes since a tense draw towards India in 2011 – ought to supply extra for the bowlers on each groups to get caught into.
If England’s current expertise at Bridgetown is something to go by, which may not be probably the most uplifting of prospects. It was on this floor three years in the past that they had been blown away for 77 of their first innings, a catastrophic derailment that set them on their solution to one more failed Caribbean marketing campaign.
And in the event that they wished a reminder of the Kensington Oval’s fortress qualities, a fast recap of January’s T20I sequence would suffice – West Indies emerged as 3-2 victors, with the home-town hero Jason Holder‘s last sign-off being the small matter of four wickets in four balls.
In the intervening time, nevertheless, the occasions in Antigua did at the very least inbue two very flaky batting line-ups with some hardly ever encountered optimism. After failing to achieve 300 in any of their ten innings of the Ashes, England handed that mark in each innings of the primary Take a look at – and in so doing they recorded three centurions in a Take a look at match for the primary time since Rajkot on the tour of India in 2016-17.
The very best of those belonged to Jonny Bairstow – a person with the red-ball bit between his tooth proper now, following a equally very good century in his earlier Take a look at in Sydney in January. An eternity has handed since Bairstow’s annus mirablisin 2016, during which time he has gone on to turn into arguably England’s most essential ODI batter, and so all method of caveats are warranted when discussing his sporadic Take a look at kind within the intervening years.
However having arrived on the crease at a familiarly bleak 48 for 4 on the primary morning, Bairstow was vastly spectacular in first rebuilding the innings in partnership with Ben Stokes, then kicking on after lunch and past to put down England’s first large marker of this post-Ashes period. Zak Crawley within the second innings adopted go well with with a efficiency of comparable self-denial, earlier than Root put the bow on an encouraging show along with his twenty fourth Take a look at century, and his first of 2022.
West Indies, nevertheless, discovered resolve of their very own to assert an equal share of the batting plaudits. Kraigg Brathwaite and John Campbell posted fifty stands in every innings, slim pickings by most groups’ requirements however an essential marker for this outfit, earlier than Nkrumah Bonner’s tour de power dragged West Indies to a first-innings lead of 64 – a non-issue within the last evaluation, however the type of benefit which may have proved important had the pitch ever threatened to deteriorate.
Within the bowling stakes, it was a case of two ahead, two again and one almighty set-back for England. Sadly for Chris Woakes and Craig Overton, their alliance lived right down to most expectations, notably whereas West Indies had been romping alongside at 4 runs an over with the brand new ball. And when Mark Wooden went lame with a deeply worrying elbow harm, that lack of 90mph risk was all of the extra uncovered.
And but, out of adversity surged the inevitable Ben Stokes – a person who had been anticipated to ease his means again to health after the aspect pressure that had so hampered his Ashes show. He ploughed via 28 overs within the first innings, his heaviest innings workload for seven years, and 41 overs all advised for the excellent figures of three for 66. He’s not fairly again to his 2019-20 peak, however these are his most encouraging indicators since his profession break final summer season.
After which there was the spinner Jack Leach, whose greatest effort in an England shirt yielded match figures of 5 for 136 in 73.4 overs, together with three of the 4 breakthroughs on West Indies’ final-day wobble. Ultimately he couldn’t surmount both the pitch or the resistance led by Bonner and Holder over the competition’s last session. However his poise and management was revealed by the concurrent struggles of his reverse Veerasammy Permaul, who was by no means permitted to settle in both innings.
In the end, nevertheless, if it is an England tour of the Caribbean, then the calibre of the hosts’ quick bowling is bound to be the ultimate issue. In probably the most useful circumstances of the competition, Holder, Kemar Roach and Jayden Seales ripped open some very recent wounds of their customer’s batting, whereas Alzarri Joseph earned late reward within the second innings for some diligent old-ball work. Pound for pound, and with Wooden’s harm factored in, that quartet had the sting over their England counterparts. In a sequence the place each groups are susceptible to moments of persistent batting malfunction, the race to twenty wickets might be properly and really on this week.
(Final 5 matches; most up-to-date first)
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Within the highlight
CanNkrumah Bonner again up the masterclass that he produced in Antigua? For greater than 12 hours throughout two innings of the primary Take a look at, West Indies’ most fascinating late bloomer racked up 161 runs from 493 balls for as soon as out – and even that sparkle of weak point, at eight-down within the first innings, got here by way of a leg-side strangle from the part-time allsorts of Dan Lawrence.
His innings had been unrepentantly one-paced, and completely tailor-made to fulfill West Indies’ wants, as he first floor his crew right into a dominant place, then bailed them out simply when it appeared their outdated batting frailties had been set to burst forth. Bonner’s Take a look at common is now only a nudge under 50, and like Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the person whose unflappability he most resembles, whereas he endures, his crew has a solidity at odds with their current status.
By all accounts Ollie Robinson is able to return to the fray, and what an interesting anomaly his profession is popping out to be. On the one hand, England’s over-reliance on right-arm medium-pace seamers has been the story of their current Take a look at failings; alternatively, Robinson comes again into the crew with a haul of 39 wickets at 21.28 in 9 of the hardest Checks conceivable – residence encounters with the 2 greatest Take a look at groups of 2021, New Zealand and India, and an away Ashes during which he was by no means lower than a handful with 11 wickets at 25.54.
The issues about his conditioning are mounting, nevertheless. There have been some sturdy phrases spoken when he went lame in Hobart, and amid the furore of Stuart Broad and James Anderson’s omission, his probably return comes laced with a good diploma of expectation.
West Indies have named an unchanged 13-man squad, with reserve batter Kyle Mayers and Anderson Phillip, the uncapped Trinidad quick bowler, as soon as once more ready within the wings. After their relative success in Antigua, the chances are an unchanged XI, though provided that Permaul went wicketless in each innings, there might but be the temptation to strengthen the batting with Mayers and depend on the 4 quicks. Brathwaite, nevertheless, has strongly indicated that the spinner stays in his plans.
West Indies (possible) 1 Kraigg Brathwaite (capt), 2 John Campbell, 3 Nkrumah Bonner, 4 Kyle Mayers, 5 Jermaine Blackwood, 6 Jason Holder, 7 Joshua da Silva (wk), 8 Alzarri Joseph, 9 Kemar Roach, 10 Veerasammy Permaul, 11 Jayden Seales
Robinson has been again to full tempo within the nets and appears set to be handed a recall after lacking the primary Take a look at with a again spasm, however Wooden’s “acute ache” in his proper elbow is a serious concern. The absence of his leading edge could necessitate a maiden call-up for the Lancashire fast Saqib Mahmood, whereas there are apparent inquiries to be requested in regards to the suitability of Woakes and Overton in these circumstances after a toothless show in Antigua. Provided that each males lend depth to the batting, one or different could also be spared – doubtlessly Overton, on the energy of his old-ball efforts.
England (possible) 1 Alex Lees, 2 Zak Crawley, 3 Joe Root (capt), 4 Dan Lawrence, 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jonny Bairstow, 7 Ben Foakes (wk), 8 Craig Overton, 9 Ollie Robinson, 10 Saqib Mahmood, 11 Jack Leach
Stats and trivia
England have received three of their earlier 16 Checks in Bridgetown, most recently in 2004 – when their eight-wicket victory additionally put the seal on their solely sequence win within the Caribbean since 1968.
West Indies, nevertheless, have received back-to-back contests on this floor towards England – in 2015, when a hard-fought five-wicket win squared the sequence 1-1, and famously in 2019, when Kemar Roach’s 5 wickets, Jason Holder’s double-hundred, and Roston Chase’s 8 for 60 put the seal on considered one of their biggest victories of all.
Kemar Roach wants one wicket to maneuver away from Garry Sobers’ tally of 235 Take a look at wickets, into outright seventh-place in West Indies’ listing of main bowlers.
Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket