To make selection mistakes, as England so conspicuously did for the first Test in Barbados, is one thing, but to compound that by playing some desperately supine cricket, as subsequently occurred, is quite another. West Indies won by a colossal 381-run margin and were thoroughly deserving of their triumph.
Whither England? The second Test in the three-match series starts tomorrow in Antigua and it is axiomatic that the tourists must get their selection spot on – and then acquit themselves in rather better fashion. Lose this Test and the series is gone. For better or worse, most of us are national selectors. Here are my thoughts, in no particular order:
- Can England afford to give another opportunity to opening batsman Keaton Jennings, whose conspicuous lack of footwork against seam and swing bowling sometimes makes it seem as if Medusa may be lurking in the covers? Joe Denly comes in for Jennings.
- Jonny Bairstow is a world-class batsman, but he isn’t a No3. Like it or not, Joe Root should bite the bullet and bat at first drop, with Bairstow batting in Root’s preferred position of No4. It would offer vastly improved balance. I’m not holding my breath for a second, though.
- With Ben Foakes and Jos Buttler in the team, England are stuffed full of all-rounders who can bat at No6 or No7. Ben Stokes is a place too high at No5. It’s not ideal, but I would promote Buttler to No5, with Stokes returning to No6.
- Stuart Broad, clearly, should have played in Barbados and he will indubitably be selected in Antigua. With the pitch looking as if it will favour the quicks, I’d employ him as part of a four-man seam attack, with Chris Woakes also coming in.
- It was ridiculous that Stokes bowled more than 50 overs in Barbados and merely served to prove that Adil Rashid shouldn’t have been selected. The fact that the leg spinner bowled a paltry nine overs in the second innings (when Jason Holder and Shane Dowrich, were adding an unbeaten 295 for West Indies’ seventh wicket) tells you everything you need to know. Rashid out.
- I am quite probably in a small minority, but I’d drop Moeen Ali and include Jack Leach as the sole specialist spinner. Slow bowlers need to exert control and Leach is by far the most accurate and economical of England’s spinners. Unlike Moeen, the left-armer also turns the ball away from the right-hander – and West Indies are likely to start with eight right-handers. Moeen’s batting has gone to pot, which also counts against him.
- Sam Curran misses out, too. He has made a fine start to his Test career – and his left-arm swing offers variety – but he is a fourth seamer at best. In the longer term, Curran will surely be an upper-order batsman who bowls a bit.
So, my England team, in batting order, would be: Burns, Denly, Root (capt), Bairstow, Buttler, Stokes, Foakes (wk), Woakes, Leach, Broad, Anderson.