Stuart Broad was at a loss to explain England’s failure to bowl out the West Indies on day two of the second Test, after beating the bat over 100 times.
The hosts closed on 272 for six in Antigua, an ominous lead of 85 as they attempt to wrap up the three-match series 2-0 on a lively surface.
England dropped four catches – two regulation slip chances for Jos Buttler and more understandable spills from Keaton Jennings and Rory Burns – but even so, Broad could not believe more batsmen did not succumb in bowler-friendly conditions.
He was comfortably the pick of the attack with three for 42, with both of Buttler’s errors against his account, and revealed team analysts had tallied over a century of false shots in 90 overs.
“I feel a bit lost as to how we only got six wickets, to be brutally honest. There were 103 plays and misses in the day,” he said.
“I can’t think of any more in any Test I’ve played in. We’ve put everything into it, heart and soul.
“It hasn’t really gone our way, I certainly thought we deserved more than six wickets but cricket doesn’t always work like that. Sometimes it turns against you.”
Buttler's drop of Campbell was the 96th dropped catch off Broad's bowling in his career. Since the start of 2006 no other bowler has had as many catches dropped off his bowling. Anderson—with 83—is the next most. #WIvENG pic.twitter.com/1rB56n0cIG— The Cricket Prof. (@CricProf) February 1, 2019
As well as cursing bad luck, Broad accepted England were complicit in their own downfall. Buttler will take the brunt of any criticism for his pair of drops, which were only partially offset by two successful takes, but it has been some time since the cordon felt entirely secure.
“It’s somewhere we’ve got to improve. It’s been a running theme over the last couple of years that we’re putting down quite big chances,” said Broad.
“I was really, really fortunate at the start of my career to play with Andrew Strauss, Graeme Swann and Paul Collingwood as a three. They were such natural catchers and I can’t really think of them putting any down.
“But we’ve had quite a change of personnel in the team and not really had a settled slip cordon, but the guys work so hard it’s certainly not for a lack of trying.”
Broad refused to accept England were heading towards dire straits in the match, insisting the unpredictable pitch at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium could make batting last a perilous business.
“If we get 140 (ahead) I’d fancy our chances on the last day,” he suggested.
“I think we’ve got a great shout in this Test match. The score looks away from us at the moment but you only need someone to get one really good score.
“When I look at it as a team-mate and a fan I look at the likes of (Jonny) Bairstow, (Ben) Stokes, Buttler, Moeen (Ali) … any of these guys could take the game away from the West Indies. But to allow them to do that someone has to get stuck in at the top of the order and build a platform.”
Denly, 32, bats at number three for Kent but will open the innings in Antigua as a direct replacement for Jennings, who pays the price for a sequence of low scores and an average that has now dipped below 26.
Captain Joe Root announced the change on the eve of the second Test, with Jack Leach also recalled to a 12-man squad in place of Adil Rashid.
Denly made his first international appearance in almost a decade in a solitary Twenty20 win over Sri Lanka before Christmas, taking the man-of-the-match award predominantly for his four-wicket haul.
His leg-spin could also come in handy at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium but it is at the top of the order that he will be expected to contribute most.
Root said at a press conference: “Joe is going to make his debut and open the batting.
“It’s disappointing for Keaton, he’s done some very good things and he’ll continue to keep developing.
“He’s very much a part of the squad moving forward but it’s a great opportunity for Joe.”
Leg-spinner Rashid has returned to England as his wife is expecting their second child. Left-arm spinner Jack Leach should find a spot in the playing XI with left-arm seamer Sam Curran likely to make way for Stuart Broad.
England 12-man squad: Rory Burns, Joe Denly, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root (c), Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Ben Foakes, Sam Curran, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson, Jack Leach
Provided by Press Association Sport
The focus will be on England’s selection and the pitch at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium as they look to bounce back from the Barbados thrashing and get some belief back into their cricket that has been shaken violently by West Indies.
The second Test in Antigua starts on Thursday and pressure will be on England to not only raise their game but match the clinical performance of the Windies, who outplayed the visitors in all departments in the opener.
As good as the Windies were in Barbados, England received ample criticism for being too cheeky with their selection, picking all-rounder Sam Curran ahead of proven seamer Stuart Broad and selecting the unreliable leg-spin of Adil Rashid instead of the stable left-arm spin of Jack Leach.
There are numerous headaches in the batting departments as well with the poor form of opener Keaton Jennings adding to the seemingly never ending woes of the Englishmen at the top of the order.
Here we take a look at the talking points for both teams heading into the Antigua Test.
BROAD AND LEACH FOR CURRAN AND RASHID
There is no point having extra batting options if the bowlers can’t pick up 20 wickets cheaply. England learnt that the hard way as the Windies first blew Joe Root’s team away for 77 in their first outing before plundering 415-6 in 103 overs. Add to it their score of almost 300 in the first innings and you can see how badly England’s bowling plans were exposed on a pitch where the Windies bowlers didn’t allow the visitors to cross 250.
Seamer Stuart Broad should find his way back into the team after the below-par bowling effort of left-arm seamer Curran. Broad’s height should also help him get more out of the Antigua surface. Left-arm spinner Leach in for leg-spinner Rashid is also a no-brainer as the former offers control while the latter bowled just nine overs and went for more than six an over in the second innings.
DENLY TO DEBUT?
Opener Jennings looked all at sea in the opening match, uncomfortable with both short and full balls. His partner Rory Burns made an inspiring 84 in the second outing so has pretty much nailed down his spot.
The only other player in the squad who can come in is Joe Denly, who is yet to play a Test. The Kent batsman has more than 10,000 first-class runs and will offer a right-left combination at the top with Burns.
He batted for a long duration at the nets in Antigua and should get a look in for the second Test. There is speculation the England management might bench keeper Ben Foakes, ask Jonny Bairstow to wear the gloves and have both Jennings and Denly. However, that would be unfair on Foakes who was the star of the series win in Sri Lanka.
WINDIES LOOK TO GO ALL OUT
Reports have emerged of the West Indies considering preparing a lively surface for the second Test. Given Jason Holder has genuine pace in his arsenal, it might not be the worst idea as Ben Stokes is the only bowler in the England side able to crank it up and he would still be recovering from bowling 50 overs in the first Test.
Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach offers a cutting edge to the Windies line-up and they have added tearaway quick Oshane Thomas to the squad. If Alzarri Joseph makes way for Thomas, the Windies will look to bombard England with sustained spells of short-pitched bowling.