The Findings Of The England's Of Series Loss In The Caribbean > Cricket News, cricinfo, mobilecric, cricbuzz, livescore and more
Cricket news - Conclusions from England's series loss in Caribbean
Despite a morale boosting win in the third Test, it has been a humbling tour to the West Indies for England. Victory over India last summer and a whitewash of Sri Lanka earlier this winter had them feeling good about their Test cricket but an unexpected 2-1 defeat in the Caribbean has brought them firmly back down to earth. Here, we draw five conclusions from this series.
Selection doesn't need to be funky
Before England arrived in West Indies, Ed Smith had hardly put a foot wrong as their new National Selector. He successfully brought Jos Buttler back, introduced more variety into England's bowling attack and developed an understanding that there would be more horses for courses selections dependent on conditions. It was new and it was funky and it worked to good effect in Sri Lanka where the squad was packed full of different options which helped England claim a three-nil whitewash.
But Joe Root and Trevor Bayliss were hamstrung for this tour with a lopsided squad. Smith and his fellow selector, James Taylor, selected too few specialist top-order batsmen and too many bowlers which meant that after Keaton Jennings's form deserted him and he was dropped for the second Test, Root and Bayliss had to recall him for the third when they wanted to alter the balance of the team. There were plenty of options in the Caribbean, just not enough of the right ones.
And even when England did have the players, they messed up. The folly of leaving out Stuart Broad for the first Test, not selecting the extra pace of Mark Wood in Antigua and picking Sam Curran as an opening bowler and then third seamer in the first two matches were other failures, but these were of Root and Bayliss's making. Only in the final match did the balance of the team look right but by then it was too late. Selection doesn't always need to be funky.
Mark Wood rises and Sam Curran falls
Before this series, Sam Curran had won all seven of the Test matches he had played, averaging 36 with the bat and 25 with the ball. It was about as bright a start to his Test career as anyone, himself included, could have hoped for. But now, after two disappointing displays in Barbados and Antigua in which he took just one wicket and looked short of being a frontline Test bowler on flat pitches, his stock has fallen considerably.
Mark Wood, on the other hand, has suddenly risen back up the fast-bowling pecking order. He wasn't originally selected for this squad - Olly Stone was picked before heading home with injury - but Wood's performance in the first innings in St. Lucia, where he bowled one of the quickest spells many observers had seen from an England bowler on route to a maiden five-wicket haul, has re-started a Test career that had looked over when he was dropped from the side against Pakistan last winter.
The trajectories of Curran and Wood may be headed in different directions at the end of this tour but this series did not offer a definitive conclusion as to their future Test prospects. Curran still has plenty to offer although this trip has backed up the feeling that, long-term, it will probably be as a middle order batsman and fourth seam bowler, while Wood needs to prove he can consistently stay fit and hit the sort of speeds he did here. Both have plenty of work ahead.
The certainty of England's top three uncertainty
It was ever thus. England still have no idea what their top three will be for the Tests against Ireland and Australia next summer. It's probably safe to say that Keaton Jennings won't be included after a horror run of form but Joe Denly's half-century in the final Test in St. Lucia means he could be persisted with while Rory Burns, whose 84 in Barbados was his best Test innings to date, has probably showed enough to keep the selectors faith for a while longer.
Yet Burns only averages 26 from his first six Tests and Denly, albeit after only two matches, has not entirely convinced he has the game to be the sort of rock that England need at number three. Which makes it quite possible that England will line up for Ireland and the Ashes with two or three new faces at the top of the order.
There are other options but no standout ones. Root could move up to number three but that exposes England's best player to the new ball and he prefers four. Jason Roy could be selected, although he doesn't open for Surrey, while James Vince could be tried again. So too could Mark Stoneman or Adam Lyth. Some have suggested Ian Bell.
If England are consistent, it will be Burns and Denly plus one other in the top three for the first Test of next summer. But it could just as well be anyone else. And no combination yet convinces.
Get the all-rounders in the right positions
A strength in Sri Lanka was England's surfeit of all-rounders, meaning they could play a long batting order and have multiple bowling options. Conditions there made that a sensible move and Ben Foakes's introduction to the team - and subsequent man of the series display - added yet another all-rounder to their mix. But for this series, the desire of Root and Bayliss to fit in all England's all-rounders created issues.
Jonny Bairstow batted at three and Foakes kept for the first two games while Ben Stokes, who was bowled into the ground as the third-seamer in Barbados, batted at five in the first Test and then at number six in both the second and third games. Bairstow reclaimed the gloves in St. Lucia, with Foakes being dropped, and moved back down to seven. Moeen Ali batted at seven in Barbados and Antigua then eight in St. Lucia. Clear, right?
It's not the number of all-rounders per se that has been the issue. Rather it's been that England have tried to plug gaps with their all-rounders, sometimes putting them in positions they aren't the best fit for. Finally, after a lot of messing around, England seem to have decided that they need to pick the likes of Bairstow, Stokes and Moeen in their best positions and then try and find some batsmen to fill the top order places.
It's unfortunate for Foakes but after a period of England's many all-rounders feeling like they have been doing the hokey cokey, the positions they occupied in St. Lucia look to be the right ones. They should keep them for the Ashes.
In the slips or out, England need to catch better
Jos Buttler has not had a good time of things in the field of late. According to CricViz, Buttler's catch percentage of 58% since the start of 2018 is the worst of anyone in the world at Test level. England also have another four fielders in the top ten of worst catch percentage in that time including Joe Root and, surprisingly, Ben Stokes.
Buttler has dropped four of the 12 chances that have come his way in the slips since his recall last summer which is better than when he is in the outfield; there, he has dropped seven and caught six. But given he is only catching about every other chance that comes his way right now, it's probably time England took him out of the firing line of the slip cordon, a position he has occupied regularly throughout these three Tests.
England dropped some important catches in this series, including Shimron Hetmeyer by Buttler in Barbados, and the whole team, including those in the cordon like Root and Stokes, need to hold on more often than they currently are. With a shaky batting line-up, England can't afford to be giving their opponents extra lives.
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