Out­stand­ing, hos­tile Archer was let down by care­less bats­men

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport -

Well played West Indies. A fas­ci­nat­ing and en­joy­able Test match made possible by an ex­cel­lent cricket pitch that helped the seam­ers on the first day when it was tricky for bats­men and then be­came a good bat­ting sur­face with some spin later on.

Eng­land would have had a great op­por­tu­nity to win if they had bat­ted bet­ter in both in­nings. Let us be hon­est – bat­ting has been our Achilles’ heel and still is. It flat­ters oc­ca­sion­ally, but too of­ten our bats­men do not make enough runs and leave the bowlers too much to do. That is what hap­pened in this Test match.

Eng­land’s first in­nings – in dif­fi­cult con­di­tions – was 80 runs short. And in the sec­ond in­nings, they had four bats­men who got in and got them­selves out when they should have made at least an­other 100 runs.

That would have been far too many for West Indies be­cause Jofra Archer was out­stand­ing in the sec­ond in­nings. He was gen­uinely hos­tile with lift and carry. His pace un­set­tled all the West Indies bats­men. He ap­pears to come in eas­ily with a loose, fast whippy-arm ac­tion and from just short of a length he got the ball to lift alarm­ingly to trou­ble all the bats­men.

The ball that got Ros­ton Chase out was a rip­snorter: a throat ball that leapt at him like a spit­ting co­bra. When you see balls like that, the best place to watch is from an arm­chair.

I would not have picked two fast bowlers – I would have played Stu­art Broad. The se­lec­tors and cap­tain will say they have one eye on win­ning the Ashes in Aus­tralia in just over a year. I get that – and ev­ery cricket sup­porter un­der­stands the think­ing. But in prac­tice Eng­land need to win Test matches. Win­ning cre­ates con­fi­dence and a good vibe goes through the team.

Ed Smith, the na­tional se­lec­tor, can say what­ever he wants – but los­ing is not a good feel­ing. It can put pres­sure on play­ers so they tense up the next time they play. With so many Tests one af­ter the other, it would be wise to ro­tate Mark Wood and Archer so that for each Eng­land have one ex­press pace bowler. That would keep each fast bowler fresh with less chance of in­jury.

The bat­ting prob­lems stemmed from poor foot­work, lack of el­e­men­tary tech­nique and con­cen­tra­tion. How many of our top-six bats­men – and wick­et­keeper Jos But­tler – can hon­estly say they got out to good balls? Or did they cock-up?

On a good pitch in the sec­ond in­nings, Rory Burns, Dom Si­b­ley, Joe Denly, Zak Craw­ley and But­tler all gave their wick­ets away. Four of the five were in and only two of our bats­men – Ben Stokes and Ol­lie Pope – got good balls.

Eng­land have too many bats­men who av­er­age in the early thir­ties. To call your­self a good bats­man in Test cricket you need to be av­er­ag­ing in the for­ties. There are lots of top bowlers around who get bats­men out be­fore they get in. When that hap­pens, you just put your hand up and say well bowled. But when you get a start and get in you have to make a good score.

When I played I al­ways told my Eng­land col­leagues to look at the score­board and add two wick­ets. Then it never looks as good. If you do that it should con­cen­trate your mind not to play a sloppy shot or get over­con­fi­dent and get your­self out. Read the match sit­u­a­tion.

My other tip was to im­press on the bat­ting unit that ev­ery in­nings or fewer in fourth in­nings

In­stances one of us has to get a century. It is im­por­tant one guy makes a big score. Then the rest of the team can play around him. That way the team will al­ways have a de­cent to­tal for the bowlers to bowl at.

I of­ten hear peo­ple say bowlers win matches. That is true – up to a point. I ac­cept bowlers have to take 20 wick­ets, but it is the bats­men who put you in a po­si­tion to win.

If the bats­men do not make enough runs it will al­ways be a strug­gle, even for qual­ity bowlers. And Eng­land have five qual­ity bowlers – two speed­sters, and three ex­cel­lent fast-medium seam and swing bowlers.

All the great sides have bat­ted well. It is frus­trat­ing see­ing our bats­men get in and get them­selves out. It is time we im­proved.

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