After winning the Wisden Trophy on Tuesday, now is the time for England to reflect on the positives and negatives that they can take from this series.
Despite the Covid-19 pandemic still creating misery, both sides turned up well and played some great cricket – and we must credit everyone involved who made this possible. It gave us some well-needed entertainment after lockdown. A special shout out also needs to go to Richard Kettleborough, Michael Gough and Richard Illingworth, who umpired the tests very well both on and off the field. Gough was especially impressive.
However, let’s get back to the players. These are five positives England can take from this series:
Why Sibley could be the man we have been waiting for
Even though he has fallen victim to a couple of ducks in this series, he has shown (in glimpses) the ability for him to be at the crease for the long-run.
Our World Cup win last year shows we have no problem scoring runs and doing well in one day cricket – but the Ashes showed how much we need to improve our test cricket. Even though it was frustrating to see Sibley scoring at a slower rate than we would have liked in the second innings of the third test, it showed the way he plays the game and this is something that will benefit England in test cricket in the future.
With Ben Stokes, he was also responsible for batting the West Indies out of the second test – something England desperately needed to do if they were to give themselves any chance at all of winning back the Wisden Trophy.
At just 24, he has the ability to establish himself as a long-term option as an opener. This is desperately needed, especially with the likes of Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler being good options further down the order.
Rory Burns and Sibley could be the ideal opening partnership going in to future tests.
Root’s decision making
Losing Root in the first test was a major blow for England – and his decision making on declarations in the second and third tests arguably won the hosts the series.
After racking up a huge 469 runs in their first innings, England were on course to take the victory in the second test. However, a respectable 287 run innings for the West Indies and a washout on day three left the hosts in an awkward position.
However, England opted to have Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler as openers, who are both notorious for picking up runs quickly and even though they lost three wickets, the high run rate in the second innings (end of day four/start of day five) allowed them to set an almost unreachable score before declaring well before lunch.
This gave the hosts the 70-odd overs they needed to bowl the West Indies out, which they did expertly. The third test also left Joe Root with a major decision to make.
The weather forecast for the fourth day of the third test looked grim – and this left Joe Root with a decision. Would he try and bat the West Indies out of the game completely and not declare until day four or day five just in case the forecast is wrong? Or would he declare later on in day three to give England the best possible chance of bowling the tourist’s out? He chose the latter, which proved to be a great decision.
Despite day four seeing no play at all, England’s two late wickets on day three gave them the platform to go on and take the remaining eight before tea.
After performing well at a domestic level for Surrey, Ollie Pope has carried this over to an international level and this achievement should not be understated.
The 22-year-old batsman impressed both at the crease and in the field in this series and has the potential to be a long-term option for England, just like Dom Sibley.
If it wasn’t for a no ball delivery, Ollie Pope would have taken the catch of the series in the third test and this just shows his value to the England team. Perhaps his potential is something we noticed before this series, considering the fact he scored his maiden test century for England against South Africa earlier on this year.
However, his performances post-lockdown has only helped to solidify his place in the side. With the likes of Ben Stokes, Joe Root and Jos Buttler surrounding him in the batting order, he can only get better as he learns more and more from these more experienced players.
Former international Ian Bell has given him a glowing reference – and his main challenge now will be to live up to those expectations and stay consistent. If he can do that, England have a player on their hands.
Broad back at his best
After being dropped in the first test, Stuart Broad came back and performed amazingly well.
This is not just testament to the way he played – but also to how he reacted mentally. This test series must have been very difficult, especially for players to be away from their family for so long. Being dropped will have been hard for Broad – but he kept chipping away and showed exactly why he should be in the side with his performances at Old Trafford.
Not only did he reach 500 test wickets, a fantastic milestone for a magnificent bowler – but he also impressed with the bat as well in the first innings of the third test. England had suffered a collapse when they fell from 264-4 to 280-8. At that point, the West Indies were ready to finish the innings off and reduce the hosts to a sub-300 run total. However, Broad had other ideas and notched a remarkable 62, allowing England to climb to 369.
Even though all the attention is on Broad, it’s also worth noting how good we now look in the seam bowling department. James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood and Chris Woakes are other options that England can utilise and you can guarantee that one of them will play a key part.
Take Woakes as an example – his five wicket haul on Tuesday allowed Joe Root’s side to bowl the West Indies out before tea.
They are a credit to international cricket
Both teams had to make sacrifices in order to come together and play this series. As I said in the intro, this was a much-needed reward for cricket fans across the country who have suffered both physically and mentally with the Coronavirus pandemic.
For England and the West Indies to put on the show that they did despite being away from their families, they are a credit to international cricket.
Well done chaps!
Article written exclusively for golear.co.uk