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England vs. West Indies: International Cricket Returns

 

After an enforced hiatus, international cricket is set to return with a three-match Test series between England and West Indies. These three fixtures are set to take place at two bio-secure venues – the Ageas Bowl in Southampton and Old Trafford, with the Manchester ground hosting the 2nd and 3rd of those meetings. Dan Atherton previews the series, one which offers great opportunity for the Windies.

By: Dan Atherton

Cricket may be back but it’s worth noting that in order for this series to go ahead during the ongoing pandemic, the ICC have enforced a number of new regulations which will certainly have an effect on the game – particularly #1 in the list below.

Key Regulation Changes

  • Using saliva on the ball will be banned – something that will make it harder for seamers to get the ball swinging.
  • Replacement players to be introduced – if a player shows COVID-19 symptoms during a Test match, they will be allowed to be replaced.
  • Umpires – given the current difficulties of international travel, the ICC have lifted the requirement for match officials to be ‘neutral’.
  • DRS – because of a weakened match official pool, an additional unsuccessful review for each team in each innings will be allocated.

West Indies have a woeful recent record when touring England. They have not managed to win a men’s Test series in England and Wales since 1988. Two drawn encounters in 1991 and 1995 were followed up with six tour losses on the bounce.

Last Six West Indies Test Tours of England & Wales

YearTestsEngland WinsWindies WinsDrawsWinner
20173210England
20123201England
20092200England
20074301England
20044400England
20005311England

Those numbers might not inspire confidence for Windies fans but this could be their best opportunity to get a first series victory in England for a very long time. A variety of factors may help them, none more so than the likelihood that the iconic duo of James Anderson and Stuart Broad will be constrained in getting the Dukes ball to talk because of the saliva ban. Furthermore, the hosts would usually have been enjoying a domestic campaign in the lead up to their summer Test schedule but because of the COVID-19 crisis, the England squad will not have had such a luxury. Visitors tend to arrive in the UK for a Test series during their own off-season, however the playing field has been levelled on this occasion.

Finally, the faithful English fans with their Barmy Army are more than a useful resource for the playing XI but there will be no home crowd to will on their heroes this time around. Conditions could be ripe for an upset.

Phil Simmons and his Windies side should view this as a real opportunity to get stuck into an England Test team in transition and not solely for the reasons brought about because of the pandemic. They are an outfit who saw off England in the Caribbean only 18 months ago, doing so with an exciting pace attack.

West Indies Quicks, Left to Right: Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Jason Holder, Shannon Gabriel

West Indies Pace Attack v England - Test Series 2019

BowlerInningsWickets TakenBest FiguresAverage
Kemar Roach6185/1713.9
Alzarri Joseph6102/1223.8
Shannon Gabriel693/4531.2
Jason Holder474/4317.9

Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph, Shannon Gabriel and Windies skipper Jason Holder took it ‘old-school’ when England toured the Caribbean last year – the hosts made sure to use their home conditions as they subjected their visitors to some hostile bowling. Whilst England did try and match West Indies for tactics, with a focus on short-pitched bowling, they simply were not anywhere near as effective as their opponents.

England v West Indies short bowling

Despite both teams recording a similar number of short balls in the series 18 months ago, Roach and co. returned three times as many dismissals from balls pitching on that length.

It’s fair to suggest that Joe Root’s squad possesses weapons that better suit their own conditions, but it is also worth remembering that Roach in particular has a good recent record in England. The 32-year-old took a five-wicket haul at Lord’s in his last Test appearance in the country (5/72, September 2017). While, yes, it was a different format, the Barbadian also impressed at the ICC Men’s Cricket World Cup 2019, which was held in England and Wales. Roach picked up six wickets in his four appearances at the tournament but more importantly, returned the best dot ball numbers of any bowler to register more than five overs (66%). Make sure to keep an eye on his ‘wickets’ column during the upcoming Test series, he requires just seven of them to become only the ninth man to claim 200 in Test cricket for the Windies.

With the quality of seam attacks, and both outfits’ fragility with the bat, it’s not beyond the realms of possibility that we don’t see any Day Five finishes during this series – especially when we are pointed towards the fact that just one of England’s last 24 home Test matches has ended in a draw. What that line fails to mention, however, is that 10 of the 13 men’s Test matches hosted in England over the last two summers have gone into the fifth day. The neutrals following around the world (of which there will be plenty, craving the sight of top-level cricket) will be hopeful for that trend to continue.

One man who was pivotal in the West Indies’ batting line-up when they last toured England in the five-day format was Shai Hope, who logged two centuries in the Test at Headingley in 2017. A lot was made of those performances but despite the potential he showed in those memorable displays, those two knocks remain the only times he has managed to reach 100 in 58 Test innings.

Shai Hope rolling batting average

Shai Hope’s cumulative Test average was trending upward before it rocketed up around the time he last visited England; since then he’s been struggling for runs in the Test arena. Given his experience of success in the country, he’d do well to go back to basics, like he did last time he was over here, representing the Windies in whites.

Windies Batsmen v England - Men's Test Series 2017

BatsmanForward Defensives PlayedDismissedTimes Played per Dismissal
Shai Hope1571157
Kraigg Brathwaite123341
Roston Chase52317
Kieran Powell52317
Jason Holder42314
Shane Dowrich20210

Hope was the highest run-scorer of the series when West Indies last toured England and a large part of that success was based around a sound defence. It’s no secret that batting in England, regardless of era, is a real test of your skill, but over the last few years, that challenge has increased further still. The current West Indies number three managed to play a rock-solid forward defensive in that series, only being dismissed once when utilising it and would go on to pick up almost 40% of his runs by either pushing or driving into the off side. He had a model that worked for him and the key to his success will be to replicate it this time around.

West Indies Batting in Test Cricket Since 2018

BatsmanRuns ScoredInningsAverage
Shane Dowrich7202340.0
Jason Holder6801942.5
Roston Chase6302724.2
Shimron Hetmyer6202031.0
Kraigg Brathwaite5762921.3

A batsman who has followed a completely different trajectory to Shai Hope in Test cricket is teammate, Shane Dowrich. Whilst Hope doesn’t break into the top five highest Test run-getters for the men’s West Indies side since the start of 2018, wicketkeeper Dowrich sits at the top of that list. Unlike Hope, however, Dowrich had a torrid time in England three years ago. He could only muster a disappointing 24 runs from his six knocks during that series – his highest score, a meagre 14.

The keeper would maintain a place in the West Indies setup however, picking up some runs and would put on a match-winning partnership with Jason Holder (202*) as Dowrich scored an unbeaten 116 versus England in Barbados last year – it was his first reunion with England since his nightmare series against that side.

Dowrich’s 116* v England (Barbados, 2019)

Dowrich’s 116* v England (Barbados, 2019)

There is no question that the West Indies batting line-up has shown vulnerabilities, but by having Shane Dowrich clocking up the runs down at number seven, they can certainly argue that they can bat deep. The gloveman can be characterised by the fact that of the right-handed players to register 600+ Test runs since the start of 2018, only four men (Steve Smith, Kusal Mendis, Angelo Mathews and Colin de Grandhomme) have a higher share of their runs on the leg side than the West Indies wicketkeeper (57%).

Furthermore, he’s logged his runs at a strike rate of 46 during that period in the five-day game; just two of the 16 men to record 500 or more runs at six, seven or eight in that period have chalked them up at a slower pace (BJ Watling and Tim Paine). The likes of Sam Curran, Rishabh Pant, Quinton de Kock and Colin de Grandhomme sit at the other end of that table – a pretty good encapsulation of how the West Indies batsman operates during that point of an innings.

Test Match Cricket Since 2018 - Leg Side Runs*

RH BatsmanTeamLeg Side %
Steven SmithAustralia63.7
Kusal MendisSri Lanka63.4
Angelo MathewsSri Lanka59.0
Colin de GrandhommeNew Zealand56.9
Shane DowrichWest Indies56.7
Cheteshwar PujaraIndia55.8
Rohit SharmaIndia55.4
Marnus LabuschagneAustralia54.3
Dhananjaya de SilvaSri Lanka52.8
Faf du PlessisSouth Africa52.5
Ross TaylorNew Zealand52.5
AB de VilliersSouth Africa50.9
Jason HolderWest Indies50.7

*600+ runs

It’s not unfair to say that if the tourists are to end their struggles in England, it’ll require their exciting bowling options to succeed. When we consider the hosts have batting issues of their own (particularly as Joe Root is set to miss at least one Test meaning Ben Stokes will be captaining his first ever Test match), along with the changes that have been brought in because COVID-19, you’d be making an error in assuming that this is a done deal for the home side. Quite the contrary, we should expect an open and thrilling set of encounters.

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