I got the margin of victory off by one wicket. And that wicket fell with two runs to win. I’m kind of annoyed about that, but otherwise my thought last night that it would be tricky for England at first but ultimately comfortable was fairly accurate. Cook and Bell progressed serenely in a partnership of 132 for the fifth wicket that all but won England the match.
It was actually a pretty good, one might almost say ‘standard’, Test. Not particularly close, but not a blowout and a couple of sessions of negative bowling by England aside there was always something to watch. I don’t think either side will be too happy with the Test, however. England will be happy to have won, but did not ever seem to really play as well as they should and have a lot on which to work before the Trent Bridge Test on Friday. The West Indies overperformed, but if one had not expected them to be hammered one would probably not say they played particularly well, though it is a mark of how much they overperformed that one would also not say they played particularly poorly and certainly played as well as any average side would be expected to. They will also be disappointed to have lost.
As mentioned on a previous day, England’s bowling in this Test was at best average and at worst poor. Even with the standard caveats of good batting by Chanderpaul; a flat pitch and not a lot of swing, one would have to say that England need to improve. Jimmy was certainly off his best, despite bowling better than his figures suggested. Broad bowled well, but was rather flattered by his figures. Bresnan was simply poor and Swann did not get a chance to feature heavily, but managed to get the prize wicket of Chanderpaul as well as the important one of Bravo in the second innings. I think they will improve, however. One of the problems was that, as far as I know, none of them had more than one or two county matches in which to prepare. I think Jimmy especially needs more than the one match he got to really find his rhythm for the summer. The same, to a lesser extent, applies to Broad as well and although he was good in this Test I think he will be better in the next one. I think, however, that Bresnan needs some more time with Yorkshire. He has not looked quite the same since he returned from injury and I think he just needs more time in the middle with bat and ball. We have enough bowling depth to play Finn and/or Onions for the rest of this series. In hindsight (and this is not meant as a criticism because it was not as clear before the match) Onions should have played in this Test where the conditions would have been very well suited to him.
The West Indies need to work on their running between the wickets. A lot. They lost wickets in both innings to horrible mix-ups and could (arguably should) have had the Chanderpaul-Samuels partnership broken by one in the second innings. As important as that is, they also need to improve their batting in general. As mentioned above their performance was not in any way poor, but that does not mean that it does not need improvement. Especially in the first innings they still lost wickets to injudicious shots and the dismissal of Sammy in the second is almost cause enough to strip him of the captaincy. They did not collapse the way they could have (and did at home) and now their task is to build on that and improve. In the field they need to work on sustaining pressure. I never thought they were going to win today, but they did not put up much of a fight after dismissing KP. Even before then the field setting was odd (a problem we saw in Australia too) and there were always runs on offer. Despite losing two early wickets and being 57-4 (though one of those was a nightwatchman), England scored 121 runs in the morning session. It was a rate one would normally associate with well set batsman going effortlessly, not fighting through a difficult first hour. There was some poor bowling, only Roach was going really well, but a lot of very poor captaincy from Sammy. The field placing was terrible and the decision to bring the part time spinner on to bowl to Ian Bell was baffling.
Looking ahead to Trent Bridge, I think both teams ought to make changes. England should bring in one of Finn or Onions for Bresnan. Right now I would lean toward Finn, but that is without seeing the conditions. If it is a relatively quick wicket then I would certainly prefer Finn’s pace and bounce, though if it is slow then Onions’ ability to bowl at the stumps and move the ball in the air might be preferable. That should be the only change; whilst Bairstow only made 16, he did so comfortably and deserves another go. The West Indies must bring in a proper spinner this time. Samuels might buy a couple of wickets, but we already saw Bell take him apart. Shillingford will presumably replace one of the quicks and I suspect it will be Gabriel, as promising as the debutant looked. It is worth noting, however, that Roach appeared to have a slight ankle problem. There is also an outside chance that Edwards will be dropped after being wayward once again. It would be a gamble to ask Gabriel to lead the attack, however. The bowler who probably should be replaced is Sammy, but as the captain that will not happen.
The ball will almost certainly swing more at Trent Bridge than it did at Lord’s and it will be interesting to see if the West Indies can continue their fight. I may have mentioned it already, but in 2007 the West Indies batted very well at Lord’s before rain intervened. They then went to Headingley and lost by an innings and 283 runs, though there were some extenuating circumstances. I think the next Test will be more of a challenge for them than this one was; England will have likely improved and the conditions will be tougher. Weather permitting, England can expect to win. Whether the West Indies can make another good Test of it will tell us a lot about the nature of their improvement.