ENGLAND TOUR OF WEST INDIES, 2019
Root admitted that playing two spinners on this pitch wasn’t the right move. © AFP
Joe Root has criticised his side’s batting after a 381-run shellacking to West Indies in the first Test at Bridgetown. However, the England captain insists the players have it in them to turn the series around.
It could not have been a worst start for tourists, who were full of beans coming into the series after success over India and away to Sri Lanka. Root was at pains to stress England did not underestimate their hosts, ranked eighth in the ICC Test rankings, but they looked underprepared on a number of fronts, most notably with the bat.
Dismissed for 77 in the first innings through high class pace bowler from Kemar Roach, who took five for 17, they were inexplicably undone by the off spin of Roston Chase in the second, dismissed for 246. The batting allrounder came into this fixture with just one previous five-wicket haul and a bowling average of 47 before England played some overly generous shots to hand him figures of eight for 60 which he will surely never better. By way of comparison, Shane Warne’s career-best return is eight for 71, also achieved against England.
Root, who played a poor shot himself when dabbing Chase straight to first slip for 22, was frustrated at just how easily the team gave up a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
“There was a few very soft dismissals in there,” said Root. “In the first innings there was a little bit of misfortune and West Indies bowled extremely well but there wasn’t a huge amount on offer for West Indies today. It was disappointing to see some of the dismissals.
“It is difficult to take but just because we’ve had three bad days of cricket – and one really bad hour which has swung the Test dramatically – it doesn’t mean we can’t win here. We are desperate to put it right in Antigua.”
These sentiments were echoed by his coach, Trevor Bayliss, who maligned the lack of mental fortitude to stem the tide in both innings. “You don’t have to have a perfect technique to score runs or take wickets in this game,” said Bayliss. “It’s how you use it.”
Root also admitted mistakes were made in not picking Stuart Broad and opting for two spinners. Even with Chase’s glut of wickets, this was a pitch for the quicks as shown when Shannon Gabriel worked over the England captain with a barrage of short bowling on day four. He might have had his wicket, too – gloved to Holder at first slip – had he not overstepped the front line by half-a-foot.
Sam Curran took the new ball with James Anderson but his left-arm swing produced just one wicket for 123 runs from 29 overs in the match. One of Ali or Rashid should have made way.
“I hold my hands up – I might have got it wrong on this occasion,” ceded Root at the end of play. “It was a very difficult decision to make and easy to pick apart by how we have played. The guys that did go out there didn’t perform. We made bold calls in Sri Lanka and we reaped the rewards out there. It’s very easy to overlook that and start making rash decisions. We just have to take it on the chin in terms of how we play but also the pitch, trying to read it a bit better.”
England now travel to Antigua for the second Test. While it is regarded as a pitch that will take turn, that may change given West Indies hold the lead. In previous series, such as 2009, a 1-0 lead was consolidated with flat pitches for the remaining fixtures to allow the hosts to close out a win. Further selection dilemmas await. Even so, Root has urged his side to dust themselves off and come out fighting.
“There are some guys that are hurting. It’s about picking ourselves up very quickly. We’ve got to learn very quickly.
“It doesn’t make us a bad side overnight. We’ve done some very good things this winter. That has to stay with us – and take the belief and fight that we showed in the field. It will show a strength of character to come back from that.”