It was upsetting to watch West Indies at Kensington Oval Thursday as England triumphed by 186 runs in the final One-Day International (ODI) to complete a 3-0 series sweep.
West Indian fans were truly hurt.
After showing some fighting qualities in the first two matches at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua, West Indies dropped vital catches, looked flat in the field and batted without purpose.
Jason Holder again had the luck of the toss and understandably opted to field with patches of green grass on the pitch.
“There’s grass on the wicket and it normally gets better as it goes on. I want to make use of the conditions,” Holder said.
But for all of the optimism, Holder was let down by his players. And he made no bones about it in his post-match comments.
Lifted by centuries from Alex Hales and Joe Root, England amassed a record total of 328 all out off 50 overs in ODIs at Kensington Oval and then dismissed West Indies for 142 in 39.2 overs.
Opener Hales made 110 off 107 balls with nine fours and five sixes, while Root, dropped twice early in his innings, hit 101 off 108 deliveries including ten fours.
The pair added 192 in 30.3 overs for the second wicket.
Root was missed on one by Evin Lewis at forward square-leg off fast bowler Alzarri Joseph, and on 12 by Ashley Nurse at a wide, solitary slip off pacer Holder.
It could have been a different story had those chances been taken as Player-of-the-Match Hales and Root settled in and played some fine strokes, much to the delight of the large English supporters in the stands.
In his first match of the series, Joseph was the leading wicket-taker with four for 76 off ten overs after picking up one for 30 in his first spell of six overs, while Holder had three for 41 off ten overs following an opening spell of none for 21 off six overs.
Containing the England batsmen proved very tough for the West Indies bowlers and the two main spinners – Nurse and Devendra Bishoo – conceded 101 runs off 13 overs between them. Off-spinner Nurse took one for 57 off eight overs, while leg-spinner Bishoo had none for 44 off five overs.
West Indies lost wickets steadily and were tottering on 45 for six in the 17th over, and 87 for eight by the 29th over.
Jonathan Carter top-scored with 46 off 77 balls including eight boundaries at No. 6 and last man Joseph enjoyed himself with an unbeaten 22 off 13 balls.
Chris Woakes took three for 16 off eight overs, fellow seamer Liam Plunkett, three for 27 – both off eight overs and yet another pacer, Steven Finn, two for 35 off ten overs.
The manner in which the majority of the West Indies batsmen lost their wickets really left a lot to be desired. Encouraged as we were by the performances of some players in the recent Regional Super50 Championship, the fact that they were unable to carry that form into this series was very disappointing.
Yes, it’s a different level but let’s face the facts. Left-hander Carter, with 137 runs (ave: 45.66) and Jason Mohammed, 132 (ave: 44.00) were the only batsmen to score more than 65 runs.
Shai Hope made 63 (ave: 21.00), Kraigg Brathwaite 61 (ave: 20.33), Lewis 29 (ave: 9.66) and Kieran Powell 16 (5.33).
With all-rounders Carlos Brathwaite, 42 (ave: 14.00) and Holder 19 (ave: 6.33) also struggling, West Indies found themselves under constant pressure.
They lost the first match by 45 runs in pursuit of 297 to win and the second by four wickets after England were set 226 for victory.
The inability to bat out the full allotment of overs was another worrying aspect, being dismissed in 47.2 overs in the first, 47.5 overs in the second and 39.2 overs in the third.
In the second match, failure to drive home the advantage was very much in the forefront. England were struggling on 124 for six in the 25th over before Root, with an unbeaten 90 off 127 balls including three boundaries and Woakes, who made 68 not out off 83 deliveries containing five fours and two sixes, guided their side to victory with ten balls remaining.
Woakes was also voted Player-of-the-Series.
Nurse was the leading West Indies wicket-taker in the series with six at 24.66 runs apiece and an economy rate of 5.28.
It is no secret that Carlos Brathwaite’s form with both bat and ball has declined significantly after his famous feat of smashing Ben Stokes for four consecutive sixes in the very last over in a winning cause against England in the ICC Twenty20 World Cup Final in India last year.
Apart from his small scores in the just concluded series, he failed to take a wicket while conceding 148 runs in 24 overs, at an economy rate of 6.16.
The selectors reckon he is an investment but they also know that returns are vital and with the tour by Pakistan just three weeks away, opportunities must be given to other players.
Lest we forget, West Indies are ninth in the ODI rankings and there is desperation to be in the top eight before the end of September to avoid playing a qualifying tournament ahead of the World Cup in 2019.
Interestingly, new head coach Stuart Law has said that West Indies could take inspiration from the way in which England have improved in one-day cricket over the last couple of years.
“Two years ago at the World Cup, England were in a pretty big hole. But they’ve gone back, changed the way they play, the way they’ve approached every game and it has started to work for them.” Law, a former Australia player, said after yesterday’s match.
“It’s an amazing transformation in two years. I’m hoping in two years’ time we can sit down and say something is happening to revive West Indies cricket, something to get us competitive against these bigger teams.”
Law also said he was encouraged by the talent in the squad.
“The first glimpse of what I’ve got to work with and there are some very encouraging signs. I thought we bowled particularly well throughout the series. Today probably wasn’t our best, but the first two were good.
“With the batting, we had guys getting starts but no one going on to get big scores. That’s the area we need to improve. I’m not pleased with the result but very, very happy to see some guys who have actually got something to give out there and want to be there to do it,” Law said.
On the eve of the final ODI, Holder called for patience from West Indies supporters.
“Obviously, the patience is running out with the public. But we’re still human beings. We’re very young on the international circuit,” he said.
“You’ve got to bear with them a bit, but it’s important we learn as quickly as possible.”
Holder and Law have been very expressive. So, too, have been West Indian fans.
Keith Holder is a veteran, award-winning freelance sports journalist, who has been covering local, regional and international cricket since 1980 as a writer and commentator. He has compiled statistics on the Barbados Cricket Association (BCA) Division 1 (now Elite) championship for three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Holder is also the host of the cricket Talk Show, Mid Wicket, on the Caribbean Broadcasting Corporation 100.7 FM on Tuesday nights. Email: Keithfholder@gmail.com