The West Indies were expected to roll over and play dead in England. The three-Test series wasn’t built up as an intense battle between equally matched sides. But cricket is a funny game.
After the Windies were walloped in the opening Test, losing an inc-redible 19 wickets on the third day of the day-night game at Birmingham, they hit back with a vengeance at Leeds.
England rallied on the fourth day and set the visitors a target of 322 but the Caribbean side didn’t throw in the towel, with Shai Hope scoring an incredible second innings ton to stun the hosts.
The final match at Lord’s was a slugfest with both teams dismissed for less than 200 in their first innings. It took a career-best effort of 7-42 from James Anderson to end the West Indies challenge on what turned out to be the last day of the Test contest.
England have undoubtedly learned a lot about themselves, something which might not have been possible in one-sided encounters like the first Test.
One of the biggest takeaways from the West Indies series is that while there aren’t many outstanding new talents waiting in the wings, the regular members of England’s Test team are still very much on top of their game.
The top three run-scorers for England were Alastair Cook (304), Joe Root (268) and Ben Stokes (228) while the leading wickettakers were James Anderson (19), Stuart Broad and Stokes (nine each).
Broad’s tally would have been better had England held on to the catches; they dropped at least 14 chances with seven of them off Broad. The only up-and-coming player to make a considerable impact was pacer Toby Roland-Jones. He was reliable in two Tests, picking up seven wickets.
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) September 10, 2017
And while it was not as spectacular as his debut game against South Africa, his efforts were consistent enough to give the management some confidence as they draw up plans for the next Test assignment – the Ashes in Australia in November. Batting, however, remains a major concern.
Mark Stoneman (120 runs from five innings) and Tom Westley (71 from five) hardly inspire any confidence while Dawid Malan (154 from four outings) was decent without being spectacular.
England’s top five still revolves around Cook and Root with Stokes and Moeen Ali providing resilience down the order alongside Jonny Bairstow, who admittedly had a poor series (59 from four innings), but offers experience.
Australia look a far more settled unit. Matt Renshaw and Peter Handscomb can deliver consistently and their bowling attack has never lacked any bite, with Pat Cummins doing a fine job in Bangladesh in the absence of Mitchell Starc and later Josh Hazlewood.
England haven’t unearthed any spectacular talent of late but at least most of the established names are still doing a fine job. The Ashes will be an altogether different challenge for new Test captain Root.
However, they can realistically hope to challenge the Aussies as long as their main players are fit and they hold on to their catches. If not, then they don’t have a Plan B.