Another Test series, another familiar story for the West Indies. Their batting, which has come undone and has been easily worked over by the opposition in the recent past, put up another woeful display in a series that they opened with a win.
Rarely has the Caribbean batting and bowling come good together. However, it happened in the first Test at the scenic Ageas Bowl in Southampton. If the bowlers, especially their pacemen, gave a good account of themselves in the England first innings, skittling them out for 204, their batters, in a rare display of grit and determination, drove the advantage home, with their first dig finishing at 318.
With a lead of 114, which was fairly decent on a strip affording enough bounce and lateral movement even without the application of saliva on the ball, the Islanders came out with an aggressive intent, looking to inflict further misery on the hosts. Though the Englishmen made a better feast of it with the willow in their second dig, riding on half-centuries from Dom Sibley and Zak Crawley, the rest failed to come good as their innings finished at 313.
A Top order failure
Chasing a modest 200 to register a win, the Islanders suffered a top-order wobble, with Kraig Braithwaite, John Campbell, Shai Hope and Shamarh Brooks all back in the hut for single-digit scores. However, Jermaine Blackwood, with able support from Roston Chase (37), took the visitors over the line with a strokeful and counter-attacking 95.
With a rare win in the opening Test, the Caribbeans were expected to take the momentum into the remaining two matches. However, as is their wont, they suffered an epic meltdown at Old Trafford. A man-to-man comparison of how the two batting line-ups fared in the second and third Tests would bring out the actual story.
The West Indies top three – Braithwaite, Campbell and Hope – fared a lot poorer than the English top order and that, perhaps, proved to be the difference between the two sides in the end. Though given a fair run in the longest form, the trio, despite the wealth of talent at their disposal, haven’t managed to lay a solid foundation for the Windies on a consistent basis.
Sample this. The West Indian top order came up short in their first dig of the second Test, with Braithwaite, Campbell and Hope tallying a measly 112. Though Crawley scored a duck in the English first innings, opener Sibley, alone, scored 120, more than the Caribbean top three could manage. The second innings panned out on similar lines, with the West Indian top order sent packing for 23.
Not occupying the crease
In their first innings of the third Test, also at Old Trafford, the Windies top three fared even worse, tallying just 50, even falling short of Rory Burns’ 57. Set an imposing 399 in their second innings to win, the Islanders got off to the worst possible start with Braithwaite, Campbell and Hope falling for 19, 0 and 31 respectively.
Despite the fourth day being washed out due to persistent showers and wet outfield, the rest of the Caribbean batting line-up couldn’t offer much resistance to the brilliant Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes on the final day, as their innings closed at an ignominious 129.
The West Indies also fell far short of their English counterparts when it came to occupation of the crease. Sibley’s century in the first innings of the second Test is a case in point. Though he brought up his maiden ton off 372 balls, it was vital to blunting and tiring the West Indies attack. He effectively laid the foundation for the likes of Stokes and Buttler. The Islanders fared a lot poorer on this front as their top three simply couldn’t weigh anchor.
The West Indies will have taken similar lessons from this tour as they did from their previous overseas misadventures. But the question is: will their batters improve?