West Indies vs England: Focus on visitors' team selection as Joe Root and Co aim to bounce back after shocking first Test loss

These are mercurial teams. As bad as England were in Barbados, and they were very, very bad, they could be firing on all cylinders in this match in Antigua. As good as Windies were, and they were very, very good, they are capable of a bad session which will cost them a game. This is not an easy one to predict.

Peter Miller, Jan 31, 2019 15:36:43 IST

The England cricket team will be hoping to recover from the absolute shellacking that they were on the receiving end in Barbados when the second Test of the series against Windies gets underway in Antigua.

(The second West Indies vs England Test will begin on 31 January. The match starts at 7.30 PM IST)

The one positive that England fans will take from that first Test result is that things can't get much worse. When you are shot out for 77 before conceding the third highest seventh-wicket stand of all time, you are certainly at a low ebb.

Stuart Broad is expected to return to England's playing XI after missing out on first Test. AP

Stuart Broad is expected to return to England's playing XI after missing out on first Test. AP

But that isn't to say that it is time for England to panic. They beat India 4-1 at home last summer, they beat Sri Lanka 3-0 in an away series just a few months ago. There is a lot of talent in this squad, the question is whether they are making the most of it.

The concern for England is not so much this one loss in isolation, more that they are losing in the same way over and over again. The 77 all out in Barbados was a lot like the 58 all out against New Zealand last winter. The collapses in the last 12 months that have seen England four or five wickets down for not many have been far too regular.

If not for their lengthy batting order bailing them out on several occasions, they would have lost far more matches than they have won this year. That successful tour of Sri Lanka could have been very different if a brilliant hundred from Ben Foakes had not rescued them from 164/6 on the opening day of the series.

The question is what England must do to fix the problem. Trevor Bayliss, England's head coach, has suggested that the issue is more likely to be a mental rather than technical.

"I think it gets down to a bit of guts and determination to get through those tough periods," Bayliss said. "It's not the first time that we've succumbed in a short space of time. The boys are in the dressing room hurting and I'd be worried if they weren't. Do they lack mental discipline? Personally, I think so. You don't have to have perfect technique to be able to score runs or take wickets: it's how you go about using it. On this occasion we've certainly been lacking in that department."

That is a pretty dire assessment of a team, that have set out being the number one side in this format as their goal, from the man tasked with coaching them. The real issue for Bayliss is that if he is right, then, how you go about fixing what goes on in the space between a cricketer's ears is a lot harder than helping him to play a forward defensive shot with a higher elbow.

What we can be sure of is that there will be changes ahead of the next Test. England were widely criticized for picking the wrong XI for the Barbados match and changes for second Test won't be surprising. Stuart Broad, controversially left out for the first Test for Adil Rashid, looks almost certain to return. Whether he replaces Sam Curran, Adil Rashid or perhaps even Ben Foakes is the question.

Joe Denly will be in the side as an opener, something he hasn't done in county cricket since the summer of 2015, replacing Keaton Jennings. You have to assume that now England have tried all of the conceivable options amongst county openers to fill that spot in their order and are now moving on to the next best middle-order player. And, Denly is certainly a fine player who probably should have been given a Test cap long ago. This will be quite the baptism for the Kent batsman though.

While England are reeling, the same cannot be said for Windies, who played just about the perfect game in Barbados. They batted just well enough to post a challenging total in the first innings, blew England away with the ball in the second and then batted them completely out of the game in the third. Patience is what was needed in the final innings of that match, with England happily playing balls from Roston Chase that didn't turn as if they were ragging square. It is difficult to imagine a match that would give this blossoming team more confidence than the first Test.

The only change that Windies could make would be to bring in a spinner for one of their four quicks. The inexperienced, but potentially very good, Jomel Warrican would be the player who would come in, but you would think it is unlikely. After Chase took 8/60 against England in the last game, you would think the team management would stick to the same team rather than tweaking, but history suggests that the pitch at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium will be slow and low rather than having pace and carry.

These are mercurial teams. As bad as England were in Barbados, and they were very, very bad, they could be firing on all cylinders in this match in Antigua. As good as Windies were, and they were very, very good, they are capable of a bad session which will cost them a game. This is not an easy one to predict.

Updated Date: Jan 31, 2019 15:46:34 IST







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