England v West Indies: series review

England won a Test match within three days for the second time this series, sealing a 2-1 win over the West Indies with a nine wicket win at Lord’s. James Anderson took career-best figures of 7-42 as the tourists could only muster 177 in their second innings, leaving England just 107 to win, a target that was knocked off with ease on a sunny Saturday afternoon. This match marks the end of the Test match summer – the next time England play red-ball cricket will be at the Gabba on 23rd November.

England emerge victorious but Windies show signs of development

The hosts were overwhelming favourites to take the series victory and in that respect they didn’t disappoint, but few would have predicted that the Lord’s Test would have been a decider. Inconsistency has dogged England for the last two or three years and this is still an issue, despite them securing two series wins this summer.

After putting in a dominant display in the first Test, England let their standards slip and put in a below-par display to lose at Headingley, particularly in the first innings. To give them credit, they had turned the match around and set the West Indies 322 to win – one of the criticisms of this side has been their inability to fight their way back into matches. Australia will go into the Ashes as favourites, despite them only managing to draw their recent series in Bangladesh. England certainly have the ability and firepower to take the Ashes, if they can add consistency there’s no reason why they can’t bring home the urn and, in the long-term, become the number one Test side in the world.

Question marks remain over England batting line-up

England began the summer with concerns over positions two, three and five, and seven Tests later there is still considerable debate about who should start in the first Ashes Test. Keaton Jennings was replaced by Mark Stoneman, who had a respectable series scoring 120 runs at an average of 30, and so he has probably done enough to earn himself another series. The same cannot be said of Tom Westley, who could only scrape together 27 runs in his first four innings. His unbeaten 44 in the second innings at Lord’s might not be enough to keep him in the side, though who would replace him is anyone’s guess.

Dawid Malan had the best series of the newbies, making two fifties and averaging 38.50 across the three Tests. He kept his attacking instincts under control to put together 61 from 186 balls at Headingley, an innings which at the time looked it could be a match-winner. He needs to do more to fully convince everyone that he is Test class, but it would be a surprise to not see him at five in Brisbane.

The team’s over-reliance on Joe Root and Alastair Cook remains – once again they were the two leading scorers for the home side. The frailties were exposed more than once by a poor West Indies side, so the fear remains that Australia’s seam attack will prove too strong this winter.

Vintage Anderson joins 500 club

Jimmy Anderson has been on top of his game this summer, taking 39 wickets across the seven Tests at an average of a shade over 14. If anything, Anderson is getting better with age – his career average of 27.39 is only slightly above the lowest it’s ever been. If he can keep himself fit, as he has done for most of his career, he will surely overtake Glenn McGrath and become the leading wicket taker in Test history among pace bowlers.

Anderson and Stuart Broad once again led the attack this summer – their combined 238 Tests and 894 wickets surely makes them one of the great bowling partnerships. England will rely heavily on these two this winter, though they will need support from the third seamer – most likely to be Chris Woakes – as well as Stokes and Moeen Ali. Ali had the best summer of his Test career, averaging 32.81 with the bat and 21.30 with the ball, cementing his place in the side as lead spinner. Toby Roland-Jones has nailed down his place in the squad, taking 17 wickets at under 20, but given Woakes’ previous performances in an England shirt he may miss out on the starting eleven.

Headingley stunner offers hope for West Indian revival

Most pundits and fans predicted a 3-0 whitewash at the start of the series, though few expected the West Indies to perform as poorly as they did in the day/night opener at Edgbaston, where they lost a record 19 wickets in a day. The contrast between their respective efforts at Edgbaston and Headingley has been described by some as one of the greatest turnarounds in the history of all sport, let alone cricket.

After bowling England out for a below-par 258 on the opening day, their effort centred around superb performances from Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope. Hope arrived in Yorkshire averaging below 20 in 11 Tests but produced two stunning efforts to become the first player to score a century in each innings of a first-class match at Headingley. Brathwaite so nearly joined him, scoring 134 in the first innings and 95 in the second, anchoring a chase of 322 on the final day.

A lack of experience is still a major issue for the Windies – no player has more than 40 Tests to their name – and they still lost two Tests within three days, so there is still a lot of work to be done before they can be considered a competitive outfit in Test cricket again. It is more than two decades since they won a series away from home against anyone other than Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, so this once-great cricketing nation has been in decline for a long time. Every cricket fan hopes that the Headingley win will be the start of the recovery.

Who will make the Gabba starting XI?

After the end of the Lord’s Test, Trevor Bayliss stated that he doesn’t expect any new faces in the Ashes squad, and that the travelling party will consist mostly of those who have appeared for England in the last 12 to 18 months.

This would leave the door open for the likes of Alex Hales, Keaton Jennings, Haseeb Hameed and Gary Ballance. Stoneman and Malan have probably done enough to at least start the series, but Westley has looked vulnerable throughout the West Indies series and will most likely be dropped. Ballance could get another go at three; a left-field selection would be to move captain Root up a spot and re-introduce Hales at four.

In terms of the bowling attack, it will be a straight choice between Woakes and Roland-Jones for the number nine spot. If Woakes is able to prove his fitness then he will likely get the nod, given his past performances. England have plenty of options to fill the other seamer spots in the squad, including Mark Wood, Jake Ball, Steven Finn and Jamie Porter, who leads the wicket-takers chart in Division One of the County Championship. Liam Dawson may also be on the plane as a second spin option, although leg-spinner Mason Crane is liked by selectors and played for New South Wales last summer.

Prediction:

  1. Alastair Cook
  2. Mark Stoneman
  3. Gary Ballance
  4. Joe Root
  5. Dawid Malan
  6. Ben Stokes
  7. Jonny Bairstow
  8. Moeen Ali
  9. Chris Woakes
  10. Stuart Broad
  11. James Anderson

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