Heading into the Manchester Test, West Indies skipper Jason Holder had played down history talk. The Southampton win more than a fortnight back was considered among their greatest away wins since the turn of the century, a victory that pushed them on the brink of a historic first on English soil since the late 80s. Yet Holder opined, "winning the first Test match is just one piece of the puzzle," and stressed the need for batting consistency with a sense of hope as he always had since the start of the World Test Championship. Two weeks later, Holder reiterated the same, only with a sigh of dismay.
"We didn't get the runs we were looking for. We had plenty of starts, plenty of guys got half-centuries but didn't kick on, said Holder after England were bowled out for just 37.1 overs on the final day of the rain-interrupted third Test on Tuesday as they subsequently lost the Wisden Trophy which they had claimed so impressively at home, outsmarting the visiting England side at home last year.
West Indies did get good starts with the likes of Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich and Jermaine Blackwood showing intent against England's rock-solid pace attack. In the first Test, these aforementioned batsmen did show that despite all the talk about West Indies's batting numbers off late, they had made the most of the quarantine period in Manchester to mould themselves into the template of batting in English conditions - playing the ball late and under the eyes. West Indies scored 318 runs in the first innings. But in playing deep into the crease, the batters left themselves exposed in front of the stumps against the deliveries that nipped back in sharply. When the ball turned old and soft, England shifted focus on plan B - delivering short balls - and once again Windies batters were exposed. In a nutshell, they failed to adapt to the changing conditions. In all, West Indies managed seven fifty-plus scores, but none of those were successfully converted into a century, with Blackwood's match-winning 95 in Southampton being the closest.
On contrary, England's top-6, who were heavily criticised for their poor batting after the Southampton defeat, bounced back strongly with good technique and by showing astute patience in the middle, scored two centuries and nine other fifty-plus scores throughout the series. One of the key aspects for the English batting lineup, especially against the new cherry, was patience, epitomised by the sedate 260-run partnership between Dominic Sibley and Ben Stokes. The two left over 200 deliveries in their partnership en route to their respective centuries. As the ball turned old, Stokes's template of attacking the deliveries by shimming down the crease proved worthy.
The batting numbers clearly reveal the vast differences. England's top-6 averaged way more and batted well longer than the Windies counterpart.
England scored three 300-plus totals in the series and declared thrice in the series leaving that first inning in Southampton as their only poor show. Windies, on the other hand, showed the opposite trend.
|204||67.3||1st Test 1st innings||318||102|
|313||111.2||1st Test 2nd innings||200/6||64.2|
|469/9d||162||2nd Test 1st innings||287||99|
|129/3d||19||2nd Test 2nd innings||198||70.1|
|369||111.5||3rd Test 1st innings||197||65|
|226/2d||58||3rd Test 2nd innings||129||37.1|
Windies's batting average (1-6) of 26.88 in the series is, in fact, the worst they have recorded in a bilateral three-match away contest since their tour of Australia in 2015/16.
|West Indies in England Test Series, 1928||622||17.27|
|West Indies in Pakistan Test Series, 1986/87||693||23.89|
|West Indies in England Test Series, 1933||853||24.37|
|West Indies in Pakistan Test Series, 1997/98||864||24.68|
|West Indies in Pakistan Test Series, 1958/59||763||26.31|
|The Frank Worrell Trophy (West Indies in Australia), 2005/06||926||26.45|
|The Frank Worrell Trophy (West Indies in Australia), 2015/16||798||26.6|
|The Wisden Trophy (West Indies in England), 2020||941||26.88|
One of the key areas of concern for West Indies, even as they move forward eyeing their next series as part of the World Test Championship, will be the one we had talked about at the start of series - the top three - comprising Kraigg Brathwaite and John Campbell and Shai Hope. And from averaging 21.61 at the start of the series, it has gone down to 21.38, still only bettering Ireland among all Test-playing nations since the start of 2018. Shai Hope, in particular, has been a major disappointment, who now averages around 20 since his Headingly century in 2017.
|KC Brathwaite (WI)||6||176||29.33||2|
|JD Campbell (WI)||6||84||16.8||0|
Lack of backups in pace department...
While England boasted of six pacers in their squad, hence having the luxury of rotating the players. Windies, on the other hand, had exhausted their pacers, especially Shannon Gabriel, who came back from an injury only before the Test series. West Indies did have Alzarri Joseph, who played the opener, and an uncapped and promising Chemar Holder, but were not seasoned enough to take on the mighty hosts. Cricket amid COVID-19 hence has shown that squads need solid backups for training in bio-bubble, as Holder opined, can be mentally challenging.