Joe Root stamped his own personal authority on his England side as they romped to a 3-0 whitewash over Sri Lanka almost two months ago. The 28-year-old became the first English Test captain to win in Sri Lanka since 2001. Now, he aims to become the first to win in the Caribbean since 2004.
A three-match series in the Caribbean will be an indication of how serious this England side are about Root’s desire to become the best side in the world.
Many would argue that there will be far greater steps in the road than a trip to the eighth-ranked Test nation, but England’s record in the Caribbean has been one of fine margins since their last series win in 2004. Andrew Strauss’ side largely dominated the series in 2009. Some controversial declarations ultimately cost England after being blown away by Jerome Taylor in the first Test. Another horror session cost the tourists the final Test in 2015 as England had to settle for a drawn series on this occasion.
England found the right spin combination in Sri Lanka, the batsmen were full of productive ideas in order not to get bogged down, and the fielding was outstanding and often the difference between the sides in tight situations. On the whole, there was a general feeling that we were seeing a side with Joe Root’s own stamp on it.
Many believed that Alastair Cook’s retirement could’ve been a reason for this, who captained the team for five years prior to Root, or perhaps it was the fresh opportunity to right the wrongs of England’s horrific Test away form.
So, how will this new and adaptable England side cruise past a Windies side who always appear to raise their game when the old enemy is in town?
The Batting Line-up : Burns, Bairstow and Foakes
The opening partnership is still far from established. It has almost become a cruel joke for England fans seeing their side 50-3, or worse. Same scoreline, different team sheet.
Rory Burns looked promising in his first three Tests and has a fantastic opportunity to establish his place in the side. Jennings has more doubters to prove wrong but may benefit from the selectors continued faith in him, something others in his position have not been so lucky with.
Jonny Bairstow’s role at number three holds the key for the balance of the side. If he can make it his own, England will have a world-class batsman at first drop for the first time since Jonathon Trott while being able to fit everyone into the middle order. However, there is a difference between having a world-class batsman at number three and having a world-class number three.
Bairstow has every chance to make the new role his own. The argument of his susceptibility to the moving ball has little merit to his chances. Every batsman in world cricket struggles against the moving ball.
What the 29-year-old does have is an immense determination to rise to every challenge given to him. He forced his way back into the side at the end of 2015, and the Yorkshireman finished the following year with more runs and dismissals than any other wicket-keeper batsmen has made in a calendar year.
In September 2017, Bairstow came back into the ODI side as an opening batsman and, less than a year later, had six centuries to his name. Only six England batsmen have a higher number of centuries in their whole playing career.
Ben Foakes was outstanding in Sri Lanka and it is a testament to his performance that he was able to snatch the gloves off Bairstow and Buttler with such ease. Buttler has since stated that Foakes has ‘set an example’ for wicketkeeping.
Pacers Look To Crash The Spinners’ Caribbean Feast
England finally found the right spin combination in Sri Lanka, but whether they will be able to do the job again is another matter. Trevor Bayliss has already stated that the makeup of the bowling attack will be decided on a game-by-game basis. This method is in keeping with England’s newfound adaptability, rather than sticking with a winning side out of general rule.
Sam Curran had a sensational start to his international career last summer, but his potency with the ball is yet to be proven in foreign conditions. It has become a cricketing cliche that the Caribbean pitches are not like the ones of old; but the introduction of specially designed duke balls could play into Curran’s and England’s hands. Groundsmen, too, have been instructed to prepare livelier pitches to induce more exciting cricket.
The success or failings of this England side will be decided on results. This statement appears to be so obvious it need not be said. But Joe Root has spoken about how he wants his side to play with ‘positive intent’. Indeed, positive intent does not always return positive results. Some may interpret the same intent as reckless and naive.
When England were sweeping their way to 3-0 whitewash in Sri Lanka they were brash, brave, and brilliant. However, when being bowled out in a single session, as they were against India last summer, natural instincts need to be contained and Test cricket played in the ‘proper fashion’.
There is merit to both sides of the argument. Results will ultimately determine which is the ‘right’ way to play. One thing is for sure; if this England team do reach number one in the rankings, it will look a whole lot different from the last side to do it in 2011.