If a plumber told you he did a spot of building, you would let him remodel your house? Perhaps not, something about a jack of all trades, master of none. Somewhere buried amid this is the conundrum that has faced England over the course of the past five years. All-rounders, one at five, one at eight, one at nine, one at ten. They said it would strengthen the batting depth to the point that stroke-makers would just keep on striding out into the fray like some never-ending conveyor belt, a game of human Tetris.
Indeed, with eight wins in their previous nine Tests against an excellent India side and then in Sri Lankan conditions that had proven too much for South Africa just months earlier, it would suggest that this is a valid formula. On occasion however, much like conveyor belts – and we have all stood frustrated at a faulty baggage reclaim – things don’t work as planned. Often it is down to human error, other times there are factors beyond one’s control.
By definition, the nature of any carousel is such that it can be difficult to stop. And as is not unusual with this captivating England side, once the wickets started falling, they showed very little sign of stopping.
It is very easy to blame the make-up of the final XI for what transpired. And of course, from the moment that Ben Stokes persuaded a delivery to misbehave as early as the first morning, everyone with access to the internet knew that Stuart Broad should have played, as well, perhaps, as the perennially under-heralded Chris Woakes. Broad should probably have played ahead of Sam Curran, definitely ahead of Adil Rashid. Hindsight, though, is not really worth considering. England have picked the wrong team before and won. They will do so again.
Yet, one of the positives to being rolled for 77 is that you have a great two-figure indicator as to where the problems might lie. Technical flaws were opened up for all to see, most notably in Keaton Jennings’ second-innings dismissal, and starts were wasted most notably by England’s engine room of Stokes, Bairstow and Root, all three passing 20 but none 34.
Then there was Moeen Ali, a man with more natural talent than most. There can be no such thing as a good pair, but this can certainly be put down as an especially bad one.
Meanwhile Rory Burns looked every inch an international opening batsman; strong off his legs, solid down the ground and unflustered before becoming the first of eight victims to the drastically unspectacular straight-breaks of Roston Chase. Eight.
Ultimately, Broad aside, it is hard to argue that this is not England’s best side. It is far easier to argue against player X than it is to name a viable player Y to replace him.
This is a good England team, make no mistake. Quite simply, their conveyor broke down in Barbados. They had a shocker, not their first, and unlikely their last.