“The West Indies did good work in Barbados. Now they have the opportunity to do even more in Antigua”
Seventy-seven all out was a shocker. Being dismissed for 77 meant there was no way back for England. The West Indies score of 289 was certainly not intimidating on its face. But when England replied with 77 they had dropped themselves into a ditch from which they could not extricate themselves.
From that moment on the match was over as a contest. Jason Holder and Shane Dowrich, with their 295-run partnership, had dug the ditch a lot deeper still. But after England fell over in a heap the West Indies were never going to lose, so long as they remained on their feet. From there defeat was a certainty for the tourists.
It is often impossible to recover from a bad stumble at the beginning of a race – even if you are Usain Bolt. Joe Root and his men stumbled badly. They were never going to catch up.
Their first innings debacle and the Holder/Dowrich onslaught rendered the Englishmen innocuous. It was the uncomplicated off-spin of Roston Chase that hastened their defeat. But they were primed to fall to almost anyone.
Even his most ardent fan would agree that Chase’s 8/60 were truly flattering figures. England were made ripe for the taking and Chase was the beneficiary.
Prior to this Test, Chase had 42 wickets from 26 games at an average of almost 48. There was not much turn to be had on the Kensington Oval surface either, and there was no disconcerting bounce available. Moeen Ali bowled well on the second afternoon and captured three wickets. But there was nothing to suggest any devil in the pitch and Rashid Ali went wicketless for the entire game and was hardly ever threatening. How then did a part-time off-spinner end up with such startling figures?
The truth is that as well as Chase bowled he did not really earn all those wickets. The English batsmen donated them. They were already beaten. They were just going through the motions of making it official. Chase was the general who accepted their terms of surrender.
The West Indies’ confidence will be running high on the back of this comprehensive and improbable victory. They played well as a team. Save for Darren Bravo, returning to the team after over two years and with not much first-class cricket during that period, every batsman contributed; as did every bowler. The hosts also fielded and caught well. They were, overall, a good team during this first Test. They have not often been one for a long time.
Jason Holder and his team, therefore, should celebrate this great victory. But they should not be celebrating for too long.
Also read: West Indian devastation at Barbados
As badly stung as the visitors are after such a heavy defeat they will not remain stung for any protracted period. They didn’t become a bad team overnight, no more than the West Indies became a good one, and it is a certainty that they will be poised to strike back in Antigua.
Despite its well-known top-order frailties, England’s batting unit is a formidable one. Batsmen like Joe Root, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali are capable of racking up huge totals. It is unlikely they will be rolled over like they were in Barbados any time soon.
England’s bowling should improve too. Jimmy Anderson was his usual self in Barbados, once again brandishing his command of swing for all to see, while Ali and Stokes were threatening on occasion.
But Rashid and Sam Curran were largely ineffective and their places will surely come under scrutiny for Antigua. The English selectors will no doubt correct the palpable error they made in omitting Stuart Broad. The tall pacer may be coming to the end of his fast-bowling days for his country but he’d surely have been more effective than Curran.
For the Antigua test, therefore, England will not be as bad as they were in Barbados. On the other hand, the West Indies will not be as good. They performed above themselves in the first Test. The law of averages suggests that both teams will revert to playing more like they have in the past.
Most of us would accept, prior to this last game, that England were the better team. With that in mind, a resurgence by the visitors should be expected. The hosts should, therefore, guard against overconfidence. They will need to remain focused. They will need to find a way to repel the assault that will come from a rejuvenated England.
They will not have things as easy as they did in Barbados; luck might not run so much in their favour. Antigua will present a greater challenge, one they will have to rise to meet. This might seem a strange thing to say given their performance in the first Test. But the hosts sailed to victory in Barbados. Things will be more difficult in Antigua.
“The reward for work well done,” said Jonas Salk, the man who discovered and developed the polio vaccine, “is the opportunity to do more.” The West Indies did good work in Barbados. Now they have the opportunity to do even more in Antigua.