Abu Dhabi, UAESunday 8 December 2019

England can use Michael Atherton's 1994 side as inspiration to save face in West Indies

Joe Root's men will look to prevent a series whitewash when they play the third Test in St Lucia starting Saturday

IIt has been a dismal series for England captain Joe Root, second right, and his side in the West Indies. Getty
IIt has been a dismal series for England captain Joe Root, second right, and his side in the West Indies. Getty

It is hard to believe that England actually arrived in the Caribbean at the start of the year full of confidence.

Joe Root's side had won seven of their last eight Tests in 2018, including a 4-1 series win over top-ranked India and a whitewash of Sri Lanka.

But fast forward to the second week of February and morale is on the floor in need of a desperate pick-me-up. England head to St Lucia for the third and final Test against West Indies on Saturday having been flattened in the prevailing two matches by their hosts. The first Test in Barbados was lost in four days by 381 runs and the second Test in Antigua by 10 wickets in three with England coach Trevor Bayliss describing their abject performances as a "shock to the system".

Winning in St Lucia will be tough, given how much momentum the hosts have, though a potentially lucky break has come with the suspension of captain Jason Holder for a slow over-rate in the last Test.

The series is lost, now it's about regaining some belief in the squad again. Though 2-1 looks a better score line on paper, the result matters little for England. What Bayliss and captain Root need to see is some fight and resolve in the team when the pressure is on.

This is not the first set of England tourists to be humiliated in the West Indies. Back in 1994 Michael Atherton's side were bowled out for a measly 46 as they chased victory in the third Test in Port of Spain. It was a huge shock for the English, who had been the better side for much of that match before they capitulated.

The defeat also ensured they lost the series, but to their credit Atherton's men bounced back and won the next match, a dead rubber, in Barbados, by 208 runs.

Root needs to summon the same fighting spirit on show 25 years ago if they are to make a fist of things in St Lucia. Batting coach Mark Ramprakash was part of that side in 1994 side. Bayliss should look to him to deliver a few motivational talks in the dressing room.

There has been a gulf in quality between the two teams, at least batting wise, in this series and England's top order have just not been able to cope with the pace of Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel.

But what they must do in St Lucia is fight to preserve their wicket, make the West Indies sweat in the field to get them out.

England are averaging only 53 overs with bat during this series, less than two sessions, and few have covered themselves in glory in the Caribbean.

Rory Burns, Jonny Bairstow and Mooen Ali have all hit half-centuries, but they have been exceptions to the norm. Too often Englishmen have got out playing attacking shots at balls that they should have left.

When England won in the Caribbean in 2004, their only series win there in the past 51 years, a lot of attention was focused on the bowling of Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard. But what the current generation seem to have missed was that success was backed up by hard grafted runs by Nasser Hussain, Graham Thorpe and Mark Butcher in the middle order.

None of that trios' innings in that series would make a highlights reel, but the runs, and each batsman's long occupation of the crease, was just as important the Harmison and Hoggard's heroics.

England have fallen short in every department this series. Set an implausible 628 runs to win the first Test with more than two days to go, England failed to take the match to a fifth day. Though they would undoubtedly have still lost, making the hosts come back out for the final day would have been a small victory of sorts, given the quick turnaround between the first match ending and the second Test starting, but they couldn't even manage that, losing their last six wickets in 12 overs.

This is an Ashes year and at the moment it is advantage Australia. They have given themselves a boost with a 2-0 win over Sri Lanka, and England need to try and finish this tour on a positive note.

A 3-0 whitewash might be inevitable, but what England need is some positives from their time in Caribbean, be it a more committed batting effort, or bowling out the hosts cheaply. Some cheer, however it comes, is desperately needed.

Updated: February 7, 2019 11:23 AM