Can England Stop, Intentionally The Other Protagonists Of The Tragi-comedy? > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Can England stop being wilful protagonists of another tragicomedy?
"This is exactly what we didn't want to happen."
In many ways, England's capitulation in the first Test was the very best of British comedy. The misdirection of a 3-0 series win in Sri Lanka met with the assurance that whatever propensity they had to capitulate overseas was banished to history. Those feelings that, hey, this is actually Joe Root's team and they're so damn assured. Things are on the up.
Then the pratfall: 77 all out and, just as it looks like they're rising to their feet to reclaim some dignity, one last humbling. That's another thing - somehow, the way England capitulated for 246 was worse than the 77.
On balance, it wasn't as bad as a child accidentally being sent into space, as per the 90s mockumentary Brass Eye (the source of the quote up top). But the punchline of a 381-run defeat at the start of this West Indies series, one that high-profile pundits thought would be a mismatch, has drawn a lot of laughs from the rest of the world. Whichever side of the fence you're on, a sense of humour helps when trying to make heads or tails of this England side.
The tourists are the epitome of the sporting adage that you're never as good or as bad as you think you are, which is handy in the build-up to the Antigua Test. That whitewash in Sri Lanka was no fluke, nor was the 4-1 defeat of India. But the issues that blighted Joe Root's side remain: they are an opener light with a batting card that is arguably the most muddled use of talent since Suicide Squad.
Question marks remain over Keaton Jennings and perhaps will never go away. Joe Denly has been chosen to replace him for this Test, as confirmed by skipper Root. The reasons for his axing are plentiful, most noteworthy being his inability against pace bowling, which means he'll be a sitting duck against this firing opening attack of Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel.
Rob Key noted on Sky Sports that Jennings needs to raise his hands more to get into the ball better and that may be something Jennings can work on, if not between Tests, then at least by the end of this series and into his pre-season with Lancashire. The pitch at Antigua is expected to turn and even though that could have played into Jennings's hands given he averages 44.40 in Asia (his career average is 25.86), Denly had a case for himself with his part-time leg spin coming in handy potentially.
With Rashid axed - and returning home - Stuart Broad will almost certainly come in for him, which will mean it is a toss-up between Moeen Ali and Jack Leach. Moeen bowled smartly for his three second innings wickets, but did concede 78 runs by the end of his 20 overs. If Root wants control, he'll likely side with Leach given Moeen's batting adds little at the moment: across 16 innings since the start of 2018, he is averaging 16.75.
As for West Indies, they have been making all the right noises. Their comprehensive opening win is one they will not take for granted and you are inclined to believe them. The manner of victory was different to previous success over England. The hosts dominated three-and-a-half-days of cricket and even when it looked like they were about to cede some initiative, if not the game, Jason Holder and Shane Dorwich ground them into the dust.
Stitching performances together will be the biggest challenge. Physically, the only issue is may be Shannon Gabriel, who was having trouble with his landing foot during the first Test. But beyond that, they go into this fixture with more clarity than a week ago. If there is spin to be had, perhaps left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican might be someone to consider. But when you've got an off-spinner who has just taken eight for 60 (don't ask), then you're probably good. It'll be fascinating to see how Roston Chase goes here after the high of Bridgetown. England have a new Boogeyman.
One thing to look out for will be England's recent history of bouncing back after opening defeats. In essence, the first Test was England's warm-up: their chance to figure out what works and what doesn't in proper, competitive scenarios.
When: Thursday January 31, 2019. 10am Local Time
Where: Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, North Sound, Antigua
What to expect: While there has been talk of spin, a 1-0 lead to the West Indies may see messages from on high to ensure the pitches for the next two matches are as flat as can be. There's no skulduggery at play here - teams play to their strengths across the globe - and in Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph, the extra pace needed to succeed is very much tilted towards the hosts.
Why change a winning team?
Possible XI: Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Darren Bravo, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmeyer, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Jason Holder (c), Kemar Roach, Jomel Warrican, Shannon Gabriel
England have named a 12-man squad ahead of the game that sees Keaton Jennings and Adil Rashid dumped. Root has confirmed that Joe Denly will be handed a Test debut. The official word is that Leach is on standby should an extra spinning option be needed.
12-man squad: Rory Burns, Joe Denly, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root (C), Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Ben Foakes, Sam Curran, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson, Jack Leach.
Did you know?
- In three Tests in North Sound, Kemar Roach has taken 17 wickets at 15.88 with two five-fers and takes a wicket evey 5.3 overs.
- England haven't had a 100+ opening stand since Jan 2017 - 46 innings.
- Since the start of 2017, Jason Holder averages 40.00 with the bat and 21.38 with the ball. Among the 12 players with 500-plus runs and 20-plus wickets in this period, only Ravindra Jadeja (22.33) has a bigger positive difference than Holder's 16.61.
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