It was a hiding of serious proportions. England didn’t just lose the first Test match by 381 runs, they were outplayed both on and off the field in every conceivable department. They were embarrassed both on and off the field and have a great deal of regrouping to do.
The omission of Stuart Broad has been a popular focal point but, despite the desperate misreading of conditions and the selection of an entirely inappropriate XI, the players under-performed. Jimmy Anderson’s five wicket haul and Ben Stokes’ four in the first innings were the sole highlights. Rory Burns’ 84 in the miserable second innings confirmed his potential as a Test opener but was barely enough to raise a smile.
Sam Curran is not a Test opening bowler and never will be – which is not to say he won’t have a long and successful career in the right role – while Adil Rashid is strictly a ‘conditions’ bowler and never an automatic selection. Ben Foakes was chosen in Sri Lanka as England’s best glove-man with three spinners on turning pitches but becomes a luxury selection with Bairstow and Buttler more than capable in non-turning conditions.
Joe Root accepted responsibility for the selection of the XI at the toss but it is becoming increasingly clear that chairman of selectors, Ed Smith, played the lead role in the composition of the starting line-up. What a bizarre situation. If the captain and the coach were over-ruled by a man fundamentally removed from the playing coal-face, what message does that send to the workers required to mine the coal?
West Indian joy was the abiding memory of the day, however. Off-spinner Roston Chase claimed an extraordinary 8-60 on the final day. Asked how seriously he had taken his ‘part-time’ bowling until today, he responded: “I’ll be taking it a lot more seriously now.”
Jason Holder continued to exude a calm graciousness which, in some ways, seemed inappropriate to the enormity of the occasion. With whooping, hollering and fist-pumping going on in the stands all around him, the 27-year-old captain, smiling warmly, said: “It is a game we will remember for a long time and a result we will enjoy, but it is only one game. We spoke about winning this series before it started and now we have given ourselves the chance to do that.”
Come on, captain. You fly to Antigua on Monday for the next Test starting on Thursday but you have earned yourselves an extra day off. Surely you can find time to celebrate this result appropriately?
“Well, yes, I’m not sure about how, but we should definitely do that. Perhaps we can fit it in tonight. It has been a special game for us all…for all of the Caribbean.”
Years of egotistical and nationalistic tension – decades, actually – have contributed to the West Indies inability to perform to their potential. Now, entirely free of the destructive ‘big man’ syndrome and ‘big name’ distractions. Holder and his team are truly one.
“We are living as one, that is true, at home and on tour. We are enjoying each other’s successes like they are our own and we are a family again.”
Joe Root took the humiliation on the chin. Never ducked a question, made excuses or deflected responsibility – much as he could have, “We were poor and we let ourselves and our many supporters down. The West Indies played fantastic cricket throughout the Test match and they should be applauded for that. But we had won eight out of our last nine Test matches before this and, although we have been heavily beaten here, it does not suddenly make us a bad team, far from it. It’s now down to us to prove it in Antigua when the second Test starts on Thursday.”
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