Given the lacklustre performance by Jofra Archer and Mark Wood in the West Indies first innings in Southampton, it seemed like England had blundered by leaving out Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes. Conventional wisdom suggested that Broad and James Anderson — their two most experienced pacers — would be the automatic choices with Woakes as the third seamer.
England vs West Indies 1st Test, Day 3 Highlights| At Stumps, ENG remain unscathed
But England took a huge leap of faith by including Archer and Wood. Broad, England’s second-highest wicket-taker of all time with 485 scalps, sits out of a home Test for the first time in eight years.
“I’m not a particularly emotional person but I’ve found the last couple of days quite tough. To say I’m disappointed would be an understatement. You only get disappointed if you drop your phone and break your screen… I’ve been frustrated, angry and gutted – because it’s quite a hard decision to understand. I’ve probably bowled the best I’ve ever bowled in the last couple of years,” Broad told Sky Sports.
Unleashing quickest bowlers
The logic behind the decision was to unleash two of England’s quickest bowlers on the tourists, who boast of a pretty intimidating pace attack themselves. However, the third day illustrated how the gamble had backfired. Sure, the conditions were not in England’s favour on Friday. They were greeted by sunshine after the cloud cover prevalent in the first two days. And the West Indies top order dug deep.
Anderson was the standout by pitching the ball up and extracting whatever movement there was on offer. Stokes and off-spinner Dom Bess also chipped in, with the former taking four wickets, but Archer and Wood were major disappointments.
According to Cricviz, the ball swung only 0.6 degrees on Friday, while it had deviated up to 1.1 degrees for the West Indies pacers on Day 2. The pitch also didn’t have much pace and bounce. Rather than finding good areas, Wood and Archer sprayed it all over the place. In hindsight, Stokes would have been served better by Broad and Woakes. They may lack the pace but thrive under such conditions.
Irrespective of the outcome of this match, England team management will need to sit down and recalibrate their bowling combinations for the five upcoming home Tests. On his part, Stokes would have realised that Anderson, Archer and Wood together would have made for a terrific bowling attack at the fast and bouncy track at the Gabba, not so much at the slow Ageas Bowl.
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