West Indies v England: Five talking points
West Indies v England: Five talking points as the tourists lose their opening match by 15 runs in Antigua
Defeat from the jaws of victory… again
The idyllic Caribbean setting would have made a perfect backdrop for England fans to rub their eyes and forget the bad dream that was Australia. It takes guts to come back from a two-month period like when you’re that on the other side of the world away from your families. In the end, 5-0 in the Ashes, 3-0 in the T20 series and a narrow 4-1 mauling in the ODI’s proved too much. They were up against a side on Friday that wrote the manual on how to go from the best in the world to genuine whipping boys (they gave Bangladesh a good game to be fair). You feel as though the worst has passed for West Indian cricket though and this was an improving side that England would have to play well to beat. This was in many ways the most important game in the nation’s history for a long time. If they had won a feeling of spring bloom would had come to England’s sudden downturn in results. It needed a performance to match the occasion. Things started well, with unorthodox opening bowler Joe Root an impressively tight part of an opening spell that saw six maidens from the first 20 overs. He was however given some treatment in the later innings by Dwayne Bravo and Darren Sammy. England allowed their hosts a genuine path back into the game from an almost certain losing position in the space of the last five overs. Their seemed a dip in concentration and a lack of thought in this period and the repetition of short ball turned the affair into a baseball match. Sammy and Bravo slogged their way to a total that was suddenly too much for the tourists.
Key preparations for T20 World Cup
If England have to play New Zealand in Chittagong without an opportunity to regroup from down under, you might fear for their chances. Cricket is a sport though where anyone can win – every team in the top eight has lifted a major international tournament since 1998. With confidence, England can genuinely be optimistic of success, whatever they may deem that to be. A win in Bangladesh would almost completely banish the daemons of the Ashes tour, but it is also extremely unlikely with Ireland one place below them in the rankings and snapping at their heels. This is admittedly a different form of the game, but most of the top performers that stood out in this game are involved in both formats. The 2010 champions often struggle on the subcontinent and they have to go there with an outside chance of winning to get anywhere.
Changing of the guard
The England camp will be a better place without Kevin Pietersen: that was the opinion of Matt Prior, someone who had previously fought for his recall, and against the public outcry. Graeme Swann also admitted on BBC Test Match Special that something untoward might have occurred after his early flight home. The size of the shoes that need filling to justify that are an average of 40 at a strike rate of 86. Fortunately, Michael Lumb now has an average of 106.That will probably go down quite quickly but if that sort of form can spread around the camp they will be in a strong position. One batsman playing an innings like that is the sort of thing that enables teams to put long winning runs together. Youngster Root also looked good with the bat, while Lumb’s fellow debutant Moeen Ali was unlucky not to get a half-century. Morale has to be at its maximum for a pick-me-up of this size and maybe that is as big as Pietersen’s talent.
Windies on the up
A player strike in 2009 was probably the moment the beloved sport of this chain of islands hit rock bottom. The problems were as big on the pitch as they were off it, but three years later, the replacements for Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Ramnaresh Sarwan capped a period of a steady period of increase with victory at the T20 World Cup. They go to the tournament in March as defending champions after creating a defining moment in their cricketing history. They have beaten the likes of India, Pakistan and New Zealand in the last year and are re-establishing themselves as a genuine outfit. In Bravo and Sammy they have two players who have produced real moments of quality for a number of years now. Lendl Simmons also played a superb knock, while Bravo’s half-brother Darren and opener Dwayne Smith bring a wealth of international experience. If the transition continues then the only way is up. Their pace attack may not have possessed the ferocity of the 80’s, but they bowled superbly at the death to even stand a chance of salvaging something from the game.
Fitting tribute to local legends
How enjoyable it was to see Antiguans Curtly Ambrose, Andy Roberts and Richie Richardson all knighted by their country at the interval. Three genuine West Indies legends, Sir Vivian Richards is the only previous player from the island to have the honour bestowed upon him. Roberts is considered the godfather of fast bowlers, while Ambrose picked a whopping 405 test wickets and Richardson almost six thousands runs. The latter two spoke to Sky Sports during the game with charm and humility, and their emotions were a joy to hear.