PAUL NEWMAN: England showed signs of progress in their first Test against West Indies


There were plenty of reasons for England to be encouraged by their drawn first Test with West Indies in Antigua.

Joe Root looks to have fostered a belief and unity in the squad as they look to rebuild after the Ashes, while a couple of key centuries have also aided his side’s cause. 

Here, Sportsmail looks at the lessons learned from the series so far…

Joe Root says that he is encouraging the England squad to never stop believing in Tests

Steel in Root’s eye

Nothing summed up the rare feeling of positivity on the final day in Antigua more than Joe Root’s reaction when it was put to him that some pundits were unhappy he had extended the Test until just five balls remained and victory was impossible. 

‘When you’ve been involved in a game like Headingley (Ashes Test 2019) you never feel out of it,’ said the England captain.

‘You never stop believing. That’s what we want to encourage the team to do — keep believing, keep fighting, keep showing we want to win games of cricket. 

‘We are desperate to get some wins under our belt and we’ll keep throwing everything into each and every game.’

Root looked just as good at No 3 as he did at four and recorded a century in the second innings

Root looked just as good at No 3 as he did at four and recorded a century in the second innings

Frankly, it was bizarre of Carlos Brathwaite to say it was disrespectful for Root to insist on extending the match until Jack Leach’s last over, despite West Indies only being four down and the pitch refusing to yield an inch.

England have only won one Test in the last 15 for goodness sake. Surely he didn’t expect them to give up too early?

What was more understandable was Steve Harmison’s verdict that it was ‘madness’ to keep bowling Ben Stokes when all realistic chances of taking the six remaining wickets had gone. 

After all, it was only last week we were being told Stokes would not bowl in the first Test to make sure his injured side had healed.

Now here he was bowling 41 overs in the match, busting a gut as always and at one point causing everyone to hold their breath by slipping in his run-up. 

Root has played a part in the injuries to Jofra Archer and now Mark Wood by over-bowling them. The last thing England need is for him to break Stokes again.

‘We were trying to win a Test,’ insisted Root. ‘And in those circumstances it’s very difficult to get the ball out of Ben’s hands. He’s handled himself extremely well. We had to manage him as best we could.

‘He’s probably bowled a little more than we anticipated but he’s stood up to it very well and I expect him to play a similar role in Barbados.’

Green shoots

Let’s not get carried away. For much of this Test, on a pitch not fit for purpose, England and West Indies looked like what they are — the two bottom teams in the World Test Championship table.

But there were encouraging signs in England’s approach to the final day, not least an enterprising declaration from Root. 

It was in stark contrast to so much of the conservatism that blighted Chris Silverwood’s time as coach and it does seem as if the captain is trying to turn over a new positive leaf.

Paul Collingwood praised Root's leadership, which has led to an increased sense of unity

Paul Collingwood praised Root’s leadership, which has led to an increased sense of unity

He has to if he is to have realistic hopes of carrying on as captain in the long term, as he insists he wants to.

Interim coach Paul Collingwood has been impressed with what he has seen from Root.

‘You can sense he’s got everyone behind him,’ said Collingwood. ‘There’s a real unity. We’ve got a direction, we’ve got clarity and he looks as though he’s enjoying his cricket. He’s playing with a smile on his face and hopefully he can keep putting in performances like he has here.’

Batsmen score runs

Root looked just as good at No3 as he did at four, certainly with his second-innings century, his 13th as captain, that took him above Alastair Cook’s England record. 

Jonny Bairstow's first-innings century was one of the most encouraging aspects of the Test

Jonny Bairstow’s first-innings century was one of the most encouraging aspects of the Test

But what was most encouraging were hundreds from Zak Crawley and Jonny Bairstow, two players England have asked to take on more responsibility and become leaders.

It is to be hoped there is no more messing about of Bairstow — leave him at No6 and let him express himself.

Crawley, too, could finally have solved one half of the opening-partnership conundrum but the suspicion Alex Lees would be an lbw candidate at this level was exposed by Kemar Roach. There is some way to go yet before the other opening half is settled.

And the bowling?

The loss of Wood is a huge blow to England and questions have to be asked as to why they brought him here after he had a pain- killing injection in his elbow following his exertions at the Ashes in Australia.

There was predictable disappointment, too, in the unlikely opening partnership of Chris Woakes and Craig Overton.

The loss of Mark Wood is a huge blow to England who must now reassess their bowling options

The loss of Mark Wood is a huge blow to England who must now reassess their bowling options

England need to have a hard look at their options for the second Test. Ollie Robinson looks fully fit now but can England risk him breaking down with his back problem again?

The probability is that Saqib Mahmood will make his Test debut on Wednesday and that’s another positive because he has long looked to have the points of difference that could see him succeed overseas.

We have got this far without even mentioning the absent Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad. Let’s see if England can take their names off the agenda with more improvement in Barbados this week.



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