Foundations for Test side are now the strongest in years
First of all, we must give a huge amount of credit to England for dealing with the biosecure bubble for weeks and still delivering high-level, disciplined performances to beat West Indies.
The past two games provide the blueprint for how England should play Test cricket. It is about hard, disciplined batting for periods of time, seeing off spells of bowling, wearing bowlers down and making sure the batsmen, on any pitch, guide the team to at least a par score.
With the ball in hand, it is about relentless discipline outside off stump and bowling dots. By doing that they build pressure, inducing mistakes from batsmen.
It is a simple formula and has stood the test of time in Test cricket. England do not need to go away from it, but they will be tested further by better teams.
We owe West Indies a great deal. You could say they saved the game in England. If they had not agreed to come, Pakistan would have been unlikely to tour here either. Without them where would we be? The game in England would have lost millions.
I hope that, in time, the International Cricket Council and England and Wales Cricket Board will have a look at the handouts and even up the cash. West Indies should get a nice series from England or a handout to help their facilities. We all know from being in the Caribbean in recent years that they need help. There is also more money in the global game than ever. There is no excuse for West Indies not receiving their fair share.
We need to be careful not to overpraise England. So far, they have played 2020 in a good fashion, beating South Africa away and West Indies.
I guess the question marks are still there. Do they have enough when the ball does not move around? What is going to happen when they need a spinner to take wickets? Can this batting unit make par scores batting second and against a top-quality bowling attack?
Those are going to be the challenges for them. But I like what I am seeing. I like Chris Silverwood’s ethos. I believe the actual building blocks and foundations for the Test team are in a better position than for many years.
The hard thing is going to be how to manage the final days of this legendary pair of bowlers. How do they get through the next couple of years with Stuart Broad and James Anderson? When will they retire? They say they want to carry on, but we know with senior players that they can suddenly say enough is enough.
Ed Smith, Joe Root and Silverwood have to know when to pick them and when to leave them out. Can they get the likes of Chris Woakes (below) to take over the mantle of one of those two, so England lose only half the partnership’s effectiveness if they go together?
One of the majorly pleasing things is that England won the third Test and we barely mentioned Ben Stokes. The only time we did was when he dropped a catch. Over the past two years, England’s cricket has been dominated by him. It is a good sign they won convincingly without their best player being involved.
Jofra Archer bowled OK in the final Test but he did not look at his best. I did not see one of those electric spells that we saw at Southampton in the first Test, or at Lord’s last year against Australia. He has pace and bounce but it is worth working with the bowling coaches, as well as Anderson and Broad, to learn more skill. I have been surprised by his lack of movement. He could do a bit more with the Dukes ball and that would give him more chance of getting lbw, bowled and caught behind.
Jos Buttler played nicely and did enough in the third Test. He will play the Pakistan series now. I do not think there will be major changes for the first Test and it would not surprise me to see the same side.
If this is England’s best attack, which is what Silverwood said he was going to pick for the third Test, why not pick the same again against Pakistan? Do not rely on coming back from 1-0 down. If they go 1-0 down to Pakistan, I would be amazed if they won the series.
Coming back against West Indies is one thing but against Pakistan it is a different proposition. They have a better batting line-up; Babar Azam and Azhar Ali are world-class. They will score more runs than West Indies, so England will be under more pressure.
Overall, it should be a good series. The weather might improve, giving us drier surfaces. We might see spin and reverse swing. We could be in for a classic.
We owe West Indies a great deal. You could say they saved the game in England