Outstanding, hostile Archer was let down by careless batsmen
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.