England will ponder changes “in a number of positions” following their first Test thrashing in Barbados, with head coach Trevor Bayliss admitting opener Keaton Jennings is increasingly vulnerable.
After winning eight of their previous nine matches, including a rare overseas whitewash of Sri Lanka, England began 2019 with a 381-run humbling by the West Indies.
Their batsman were largely responsible, bowled out for 77 in the first-innings before allowing a second-tier spinner in Roston Chase to claim A-lister’s figures of eight for 60 in the second. All the while their own attack looked ill-judged, with Adil Rashid and Sam Curran failing to justify their selections.
Bayliss was taken aback by the flimsy nature of the performance and will respond by examining the make-up of the XI for next week’s clash in Antigua.
“We will have some thinking to do in a number of positions,” he said.
“We will sit down, have a chat with the guys and try to get to the bottom of it. It’s not the first time that we’ve succumbed in a short space of time. The boys are in the dressing room hurting, I’d be worried if they weren’t.
“I think it gets down to a bit of guts and determination to get through those tough periods. They bowled extremely well against us, but when a team bowls extremely well against us we have got to be able to deal with it. Every time we lose a wicket it (feels like) the beginning of a collapse.”
Stuart Broad appears highly likely to return at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, his surprise omission in Bridgetown failing to pay off, while pace pair Chris Woakes and Mark Wood and left-arm spinner Jack Leach will also be looking for a chance.
It was, though, the batting that let England down most in the series opener.
Jennings is under most pressure, with knocks of 17 and 14 dragging his Test average down to 25.86. It is just four Tests since he scored a fine, unbeaten 146 in Galle, but the Lancashire batsman’s only successes have come in Asia and pace bowling remains an issue.
Bayliss’ outlook has typically been a forgiving one towards out-of-form batsmen, with his stated policy of preferring one chance too many to one chance too few.
The difference between Chase's actual wickets (8) & expected wickets (1.38) is the second largest positive difference ever recorded by a bowler in an innings in our database. The most is +6.72 by Stuart Broad in the first innings at Trent Bridge v Australia in 2015. #WIvENG https://t.co/efQgfuvtlF— The Cricket Prof. (@CricProf) January 26, 2019
And while that may buy Jennings one more opportunity, keeping Joe Denly’s Test debut on hold, there is no denying his performances have become a concern.
“Keaton is struggling a little bit,” admitted Bayliss.
“I’d be lying if I said we’re not worried about it and I’d be lying if I said he hadn’t been thinking about it. He’s one of the hardest workers we’ve got and he’s going to leave no stone unturned in making it better. Let’s wait and see.”
The verdict on Rory Burns, Jennings’ rookie opening partner, was better. His score of 84 on Saturday was his best in eight Test knocks to date and Bayliss likes what he is seeing.
“Burns has shown enough,” said the Australian.
“As we said in Sri Lanka he looks like he’s been here for 20 or 30 Tests, not four. He’s still learning and will still get better.
Bayliss also took a moment to support Curran. The 20-year-old all-rounder impressed as he won each of his first seven Tests but had a rough time on new ball duty at the Kensington Oval, taking one for 123.
“It was down to Curran or Broad and the gut feel was Curran,” he added.
“It didn’t work out, the young bloke has had the first bad Test in his career. It won’t be his last, but he’s a good young player who will learn from it.”
Windies openers John Campbell and Kraigg Brathwaite added 53 for the first wicket before off-spinner Moeen Ali dismissed debutant Campbell who made a brisk 44.
Ben Stokes then took two quick wickets before Shai Hope scored a fifty. James Anderson removed Hope to reduce Windies to 174-4.
England preferred Sam Curran and Adil Rashid to Stuart Broad and Jack Leach. The selection represented a blow for Broad, who has now been left out for rising star Curran in three of England’s last four Tests after a decade as first-choice.
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Moeen Ali looks back on his last Test appearance in Barbados as the worst bowling performance of his England career and is ready to put things right this week.
The West Indies turned England over inside three days on their last visit to the Kensington Oval in 2015, securing an unexpected 1-1 draw along the way.
Moeen reflects unhappily on his own contribution to that match, a first day half-century offset by the ineffectiveness of his off-spin. Moeen leaked runs in both innings, took modest figures of two for 110 and failed to apply pressure in what should have been a nervy fourth-innings chase.
“I’ve bowled poorly a lot of times but that was probably the worst I ever bowled in an England shirt and I want to put that right,” he said.
“I’d just come back from injury, I was straight back into the side after the World Cup and I was the only spinner. I just bowled…bad.”
Moeen might easily have missed the tour entirely, having been left out of the original squad due to an abdominal complaint. Instead he was flown out for the final two Tests and appeared light on form, confidence or both.
Fun & games with Moeen Ali & Adil Rashid at Kensington Oval.— Test Match Special (@bbctms) January 21, 2019
Test starts Wednesday with reports from the ground & the cricket social back on the air from 2pm. #bbccricket #WIvENG pic.twitter.com/0mB4AJuQSX
Fast forward four years and his build-up to Wednesday’s first Test could not be more different. He played a central role in the 3-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka before Christmas, taking 18 wickets at 24.50 and is inked in to the XI while his fellow tweakers – slow left-armer Jack Leach and leg-spinner Adil Rashid – await a final assessment of the pitch.
Having thrived with a three-pronged spin attack in Sri Lanka, England had pondered dropping down to just one specialist, through the dry and dusty appearance of the surface on Monday seems likely to favour a second.
Importantly, though, Moeen is more than happy to go in alone if asked. In the past he has sought to avoid that spotlight, preferring to share his load and even casting himself as the ‘second spinner’ behind less experienced team-mates.
“To be honest I’m not too fussed about that any more. Maybe before I was, now I just try and focus on myself and if someone else plays I try to help them out as much as I can,” he said.
“I thought we all worked really well together in Sri Lanka but if the responsibility is on myself then I’m happy with it.
“I feel like for me to try and get better and think better of myself might improve me. I’ve got to do that rather than almost hide behind saying I’m a second spinner. I try and face it and deal with it.
“I feel like I’m at the best age now, I’m 31 and I’ve played quite a bit for England. I feel I am getting, as a spinner, towards my best.”
Moeen’s growing acceptance of his rightful place in the bowling attack, befitting of a man with 163 Test scalps to his name, comes at the same time as a realisation about his batting.
Way back in 2014 he carved out a stoic maiden century at Headingley, battling for six-and-a-half hours in a losing cause against the Sri Lankans.
He has since shuffled up and down the order at regular intervals, though his appearance at number three in Galle two months ago will almost certainly be his final outing in such a lofty position.
“At this particular time, this moment in my career, I don’t have the patience I used to,” he said.
“I did try to bat a long time, and it doesn’t mean I can’t do it, but now I think I’m more use to the side coming in down the order. I do feel like we need a proper number three in England for the Ashes.”
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