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Three reasons why England collapsed against the West Indies

Ben Darvill 15 Feb 2019

Why did England struggle so much against the West Indies when the bookies, the pundits and the fans all thought that the touring side would be the ones running out series winners? 

England fell to what was a shock series loss at the hands of the West Indies at the start of 2019. Bookies and pundits alike had predicted an England win across the series, but the travelling party were blown away in the first two Tests as their hosts dominated with both bat and ball. 

Impressive scores of 289 and 415/6 declared from the West Indies came in contrast to England’s abysmal scores of 77 and 246 as the travelling side lost by 381 runs chasing 628 for victory. The second Test followed a similar theme as England’s paltry scores of 187 and 132 saw the West Indies win by 10 wickets as they notched 306 and 17/0 to clinch the win. The final Test was one in which England at last dominated, posting scores of 277 and 361/5 declared as the Windies crumbled with scores of 154 and 252. 

England’s win in the final Test was impressive, and it showcased how good they can be when they are on the top of their game. Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes steadied the ship in the first innings with scores of 67 and 79 respectively, while Joe Root notched 122 in the second. Mark Wood was recalled and looked dangerous with the ball as he took 5-41 in an 8.2 over spell that the Windies just could not deal with, while Moeen Ali took 7-135 across the two innings as his impressive form with the ball continued. 

The third Test was more of the England side we have come to expect, with a 4-1 series win over India quickly followed by a 3-0 away win over Sri Lanka. The two series triumphs saw many assume England would beat the West Indies too, only for the Three Lions to fall apart under the pressure. But why did they crumble in the Caribbean? 

A weak batting lineup

Keaton Jennings of England reacts after losing his wicket. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images,)

It is no secret that England have one of the most exciting and talented batting lineups in world cricket right now. The likes of Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes are all incredibly strong players, and when things go well, they go really well. However, the first two Tests once again displayed that if a side can get on top of England and Root is unable to dig in and make a big score, then the Three Lions struggle massively.  

Stokes, Buttler and Bairstow can get in and score runs, as Stokes and Buttler displayed in the first innings of the final Test, but they aren’t players that are designed to do this. Instead, they should be coming in with around 200 runs on the board, giving them the chance to add runs and accelerate the run rate, putting more pressure on the opposition and wearing the fielding team out. 

The problem with their batting lineup stems from their top three, with the opening partnership of Rory Burns and Keaton Jennings with Joe Denly at three not the right mix. Burns notched 145 runs in three Tests at an average of 24.16, Jennings scored 62 in two Tests at 15.50, while Denly scored 112 in two Test at 28.00. The averages and run scoring of the three were anything but impressive, but both Burns and Denly, who are at the starts of their England careers, looked like they can bat, and they did show glimpses of their ability on pitches that did not always encourage run scoring. 

Jennings by contrast was dropped for the second Test before coming back for the third and he did not look comfortable at any stage. Too many soft dismissals and not enough runs punctuate a toilsome time in international cricket and, even if he did wish to stay as one of the openers, England must send him back to the county scene to score some runs, rebuild his confidence and work on his technique, or they will likely damage a promising prospect further. 

If England are looking for inspiration, India seem to have the right balance at the moment. K.L Rahul, Mayank Agarwal and Muarli Vijay are all battling for the two spots as openers, while Cheteshwar Pujara is proving himself to be a part of the furniture at this point as the number three is a run-machine of late. The top three may change sometimes with one of the openers failing, but having a number three like Pujara, who just scores runs and seems to enjoying soaking up a huge amount of deliveries, is vital. This means the likes of Ajinkya Rahane, Rohit Sharma, Rishabh Pant and, most importantly, Virat Kohli, can all come in against an older ball and fatigued bowlers with a few hundred runs on the board. This is something England’s middle order have been deprived of. 

If England can find their ideal one-two-three then it will help the likes of Root, Stokes and Buttler as they will not consistently have to come in with just 10 runs on the board five overs in against a new and shiny ball that is swinging. England’s best batsmen come in the middle order which is a huge problem as they are basically playing as openers right now as the top order continues to fail.

England need Stuart Broad

Stuart Broad of England celebrates. (RANDY BROOKS/AFP/Getty Images)

It was one of the most confusing calls of the tour as Stuart Broad missed out on the chance to start the first Test against the Windies. There would likely have been one or two jubilant cheers when the home side heard this news, and for good reason. Broad has claimed 437 scalps in Test cricket, while strike partner James Anderson has snared 575, meaning the two have 1012 Test wickets between them as they continue to prove that they are one of, if not the most devastating bowling partnership in modern-cricket. 

Despite this, Broad was dropped for the first Test, and England paid for this. The pitches in the Caribbean lent themselves to taller bowlers with a quicker action, something that perfectly describes Broad. 

Instead, Sam Curran was given the task of partnering Anderson as swing was predicted, something Curran would surely exploit. However, this swing did not ever really materialise, and Curran ended the series with just one wicket in two Tests. 

Broad came back in for the second and third Tests and while he only took four wickets, he looked dangerous. Constantly beating the edge of the bat and hamstrung by poor fielding and dropped catches, perhaps Broad should have ended with closer to double-figures in the wickets column but, even if it was a case of missed chances and beating the edge, Broad did at least provide a real threat, making the home batsmen think twice before they took him on. 

Mark Wood came into the side and did a lot of good work with the ball and could be invaluable in the Ashes if he is picked due to his pace, but Broad proved himself to be the main-man to partner Anderson with the new-ball. While the experiment with Curran failed, it did at the very least highlight the importance of Broad to this England side. 

Questionable selections

Ben Foakes of England was one of the players dropped from the side. (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

As previously mentioned, the dropping of Broad was one of the most questionable decisions of the series and raised more than a few eyebrows at home. However, Joe Root and the selectors went back to Broad after Curran struggled and normality was restored, with Broad showing his wicket-taking threat.

However, while this particular selection was rectified, others were not. 

Keaton Jennings fell out of the team after a poor first Test only to be recalled for the third, just to fail yet again. Upon being recalled, Jennings simply had to score runs, with a half-century at the very least needed. Instead, scores of just 8 and 23 were not good enough. Perhaps this would not be so bad if he looked comfortable, but he just seemed like a walking-wicket, something England cannot afford with the Ashes fast approaching. Should Jennings have been recalled, or should England have admitted defeat on this one and moved their gaze to their next potential opener? 

Ben Foakes was a player that was unfairly treated in England’s selection policy, with the wicketkeeper-batsman losing his place in the team due to the Bairstow experiment which saw him moving up and down the order. Foakes had starred against Sri Lanka with a number of good knocks but, for whatever reason, he was the man to lose his place in the team, even with the struggles of Jennings at the top, with the opener poor for some time now and still given a raft of chances in comparison to the rather cut-throat nature of Foakes’ omission. It is likely that losing the gloves saw the importance of Foakes diminish, especially with Jos Buttler in the side and more than capable of deputising for Bairstow. 

It seems as though England suffered in the Caribbean due to their selection policy then. Their one-two-three trifecta looks anything but solid, they were foolish to drop one of their greatest ever wicket-takers in Broad, while Foakes seemed unfairly dropped as England desperately missed runs in the series. Of course, it should be noted that the West Indies’ batsmen were incredibly, and perhaps uncharacteristically patient on wickets that were tough to bat on while their bowlers were persistent and vicious, putting England on the back-foot as they made the most out of home conditions. Perhaps things would have been very different if the West Indies have been visiting England and not the other way round, but the Three Lions cannot become the best in the world if they are not masters of all conditions. Indeed, they won’t be the best Test side on the planet if they cannot rectify their confusing and ultimately damning selection policy either. 

Can England bounce back from their 2-1 Test series loss in the first ODI against the West Indies on Wednesday? 

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Three reasons why England collapsed against the West Indies

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