Prior to the recently concluded three test series between West Indies and England, incoming England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) chairman Colin Graves declared that there may be some enquires if the tourists could not beat a ‘mediocre’ West Indies team. Following a 1-1 draw after three tests, English captain Alastair Cook described his comments as ‘not ideal timing’ in an interview conducted immediately after a defeat in the third test, and while Cook’s comments may have been somewhat exaggerated by the media, the performance of the touring side during the final test raises question marks as to their current standards of quality.
After clinching a decisive nine wickets second test match victory in Grenada to assume a 1-0 lead in the three game series, England arrived at Bridgetown, Barbados in confident mood, especially with Joe Root demonstrating his good form throughout most of the tour.
However, England only succeeded in scoring 257 for their first innings in Bridgetown with Cook claiming an overdue century and Moeen Ali providing decent support with 58 runs, but with Root emerging as the only other batsman to amass over 30.
Jermaine Blackwood rescued West Indies from an embarrassing reply when compiling 85 of a first innings total of 189 with England now seemingly set to win the series as they aimed to set the hosts a challenging target to level the series. Unfortunately for the visitors, whether it was over-confidence or just genuine incompetence, the script did not develop as planned.
Admittedly, the West Indies bowlers demonstrated more purpose and aggression during the England second innings, but the batting performances of several tourists gave the impression that thoughts of a comfortable victory ahead were prevalent. Only one of the top six English batsmen scored more than 10 runs with Gary Balance accumulating a total of 23 and Jonathan Trott failing once again. Ian Bell failed to score for the second successive innings. With Ben Stokes amassing 32 and Jos Buttler remaining unbeaten on 35, England eventually compiled a dismal 123 runs, but for Stokes in particular, the manner of his dismissal as he chased runs when patience was required, was symptomatic of the displays of many of the English batsmen.
Early wickets did fall when the West Indies began their second innings needing a total of 192 runs to claim victory, but 80-4 soon became 188-5 as Darren Bravo and Blackwood eventually exposed a tiring England attack to claim an unexpected five wickets victory when defeat appeared likely after a ‘mediocre’ first innings.
Perhaps it was a mixture of complacency by England and a more determined effort by the West Indies during the final stages of the third test which eventually led to the series being drawn, but on this evidence, much work awaits the England coaches and players before the Ashes series begins later this year.
It is doubtful if Australia will be a described as a ‘mediocre’ team prior to that upcoming series