Not paying attention to detail was the undoing of West Indies in their 113-run defeat against England in the second Test at the Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester.
On the heels of their four-wicket win in the first Test at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton, it was depressing the way in which West Indies lost.
Now, they appear to be under psychological pressure after the first day’s play of the third and final Test, which started today at Old Trafford, as the home team closed on 258 for four off 85.4 overs.
As much as West Indies captain Jason Holder insists that he does not believe in dwelling on history, he should still be mindful that to win the series would be special. After all, West Indies have not tasted a Test series triumph in England since 1988 when Viv Richards’ side swept it 4-0.
Apart from the hammering by every Tom, Dick, Harry, Mary and Jane over the team’s showing in the second Test, a couple players including batsmen John Campbell and Shai Hope have seriously come under the microscope for their lack of runs and questions were also raised about the fitness of fast bowler Shannon Gabriel.
Whether or not West Indies should have batted first in the second Test and again today after Holder had the luck of the toss on both occasions is also debatable.
But I believe in my long-standing motto of “let the cricket play”.
As far as the second Test was concerned, West Indies were hurt both in the field and at the crease.
Once England piled up a challenging first innings total of 469 for nine declared off 162 overs, set up by centuries from opener Dom Sibley (120) and the imperious all-rounder Ben Stokes (176), the onus was on the West Indies to bat long as well. They lacked concentration at critical stages and paid the price.
Stats are facts but they should be used to make sense out of arguments. Sibley batted for 556 minutes, faced 372 balls and struck just five boundaries. Stokes occupied the crease for 487 minutes, received 356 balls and counted 17 fours and two sixes.
Though saving the follow-on, the West Indies’ response of 287 all out off 99 overs was very disappointing, especially after reaching 199 for three by the end of the 68th over.
The dismissal of the usually stubborn opener Kraigg Brathwaite for the topscore of 75, which stretched for 283 minutes off 165 balls and included eight fours, led to the collapse.
Hence, effectively the last seven wickets tumbled for 88 runs in 31 overs as only two other batsmen, the elegant Shamarh Brooks (68: 149 minutes, 137 balls, 11 fours) and all-rounder Roston Chase (51: 137 minutes, 85 balls, 7 fours) got half-centuries.
One detected that the thinking of the West Indies batsmen became somewhat relaxed after the entire third day’s play was washed out. What a pity!
Going into the fourth day on 32 for one, it was of paramount importance to bat and bat. Old timers would simple say “bat until the cows come home”.
England then raced to 129 for three declared off 19 overs in their second innings as West Indies opted for a very defensive field with Player Of The Match Stokes lashing an unbeaten 78 off 57 balls containing four fours and three sixes, this time as an opener.
Set 312 to win in 85 overs, West Indies fell for 198 in 70.1 overs. Brooks again batted well for the topscore of 62 in 207 minutes off 136 balls containing four fours and two sixes and the attacking Jermaine Blackwood made 55 in 113 minutes of 88 deliveries with seven boundaries.
Let’s be honest. Sibley was helped by an easy dropped catch by Holder at second slip off Gabriel when he was on 68 and the score 164 for three in the 66th over.
And it should be noted that Sibley and Stokes added 260 in 94.4 overs for the fourth wicket. That stand made a significant difference to the outcome.
For some strange reason, however, critics opted to dwell more on a missed catch by Campbell at deep extra cover off Gabriel, offered by Stokes on 29 with the score 51 for two in the second innings when England were hunting quick runs for a declaration.
The West Indies effort was generally very disappointing. To see some of the batsmen being unsettled by sharply, lifting deliveries was extremely worrying. One wonders what has become of the art of hooking and pulling.
Their approach brought back memories of the two-Test series in New Zealand in December 2017 when the likes of left-armers Neil Wagner and Trent Boult had the West Indies batsmen ducking and fending. Simply put, the “off uh me” stroke was their best defence.
West Indies were badly beaten in both Tests with a day to spare – by an innings and 67 runs at the Basin Reserve in Wellington and by 240 runs at Seddon Park in Hamilton. It was pathetic.
In the current series, the struggles of opener Campbell and Hope, at No. 3, are clearly underlined in their returns. Left-hander Campbell has managed just 52 runs (ave: 17.33) and Hope 57 (ave: 14.25).
Observers have pointed to technical deficiencies in both. Hope’s lack of runs ever since his memorable twin centuries (147 and 118 not out) against England at Headingley, Leeds in a remarkable five-wicket win on the last tour in 2017, will always be mind-boggling.
His subsequent Test returns show: 29 and 62 v England at Lord’s; 90 not out and 44 v Zimbabwe at Bulawayo; 40 v Zimbabwe at Bulawayo; 0 and 37 v New Zealand at Wellington; 15 and 23 v New Zealand at Hamilton (all in 2017); 44 and 1 v Sri Lanka in Trinidad; 19 and 39 v Sri Lanka in St. Lucia; 11 and 0 v Sri Lanka in Barbados; 67 v Bangladesh in Antigua; 29 and 4 v Bangladesh in Jamaica; 10 and 17 v India at Rajkot; 36 and 28 v India at Hyderabad (Deccan); 1 and 3 v Bangladesh at Chattogram; 10 and 25 v Bangladesh at Dhaka (all in 2018); 57 and 3 v England in Barbados; 44 v England in Antigua; 1 and 14 v England in St. Lucia; 24 and 2 v India in Antigua; 7 and 6 not out v Afghanistan at Lucknow (2019); 16 and 9 v England in Southampton; 25 and 7 v England in Manchester (current series).
So that’s a total of 899 runs from 39 innings including two not outs, at an average of 24.29 in his last 21 Tests. All told, he has played 33 Tests and scored 1555 runs (ave: 26.35).
The 26-year-old Hope’s Test statistics contrast sharply with his white-ball showing in One-Day Internationals, having amassed 3289 runs including nine hundreds and 17 half-centuries in 78 matches, at an average of 52.20
While all sorts of suggestions have been put forward in relation to helping him out of his problems, one of the most interesting points has been advanced by former England captain and opening batsman, Michael Atherton, who is now an international television commentator.
Atherton alluded to the fact that outside of Tests, Hope has not played a first-class match since 2017. He turned out in four matches for Barbados Pride in that 2016-17 season, scoring 377 runs (ave: 75.40) including a career-best 215 not out against Guyana at Kensington Oval.
It is a significant point, clearly showing his lack of red-ball cricket apart from Tests.
Fans or rather critics, especially those with the privilege of social media nowadays, can be very cruel.
After fighting his way back to fitness, Gabriel bowled his heart out at Southampton and was Player Of The Match for figures of four for 62 off 15.3 overs and five for 75 off 21.2 overs.
The workload seemingly took its toll to a certain extent in the second Test so figures of nought for 79 off 26 overs and nought for 43 off seven overs begged the question of whether or not he should have been rested. He left the field on a couple occasions but remember he suffered from a couple dropped catches as well.
The second Test was also a very tough one for wicket-keeper/batsman Shane Dowrich. His ‘keeping was untidy and he failed to score.
Even though rain is expected to affect the final Test, West Indies must be mindful that their batting will again face a testing time, especially if England post a big first innings total.
It would be a shame that with this series being the last to be contested for the Wisden Trophy since its inception in 1963 when West Indies triumphed 3-1 in England, if the regional team cannot at least draw it for bragging rights, having won 2-1 in the Caribbean last year.
When they next meet, West Indies and England will compete for a new Richards-Botham Trophy, named after greats and wonderful friends, Sir Vivian Richards and Sir Ian Botham – both former international captains.
In 117 Tests prior to this series, West Indies won 47 and England 34 with 36 drawn.
There is certainly a lot of pride to play for over the next four days.
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 over three-and-a-half decades and is responsible for editing the BCA website (www.bcacricket.org). Email: [email protected]
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