Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 24 May 2019

West Indies v England takeaways: Keaton Jennings' time in Test cricket is up and Jason Holder has a series to remember

Poor preparation and a resurgent home side all factors in England's 2-1 defeat in the Caribbean

Keaton Jennings managed just 62 runs in four innings at an average of little over 15 for England during the West Indies Test series. AFP
Keaton Jennings managed just 62 runs in four innings at an average of little over 15 for England during the West Indies Test series. AFP

England’s batting woes all-too familiar

The rampaging elephant in the room that everyone was talking about going into the series was the concerns over England’s wafer-weak batting at the top of the order.

As it transpired, the entire batting line-up failed to produce the goods, particularly in the opening two Tests.

Only Ben Stokes (37.20) averaged over 30 with Joe Root’s 122 in the dead rubber in St Lucia the solitary century.

But it is the top three spots that remain the biggest concern heading into an Ashes summer.

Time is now surely up at Test level for opener Keaton Jennings whose love of trying to drive balls pitched just outside of off-stump is only matched by his inability to play the shot. Dropped for the second Test, before being recalled for St Lucia, Jennings managed just 62 runs in four innings at an average of little over 15. His lack of footwork and technique have been well and truly found out.

Fellow opener Rory Burns at least managed one decent knock (84 in the Bridgetown opener) – but averaged a little over 24 – while Joe Denly showed enough in the third Test to suggest he should be given another chance at No 3. Those two should be safe to take on Australia but as for Jennings, it’s back to the drawing board and scouring the County Championship for England’s selectors.

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Fail to prepare, prepare to fail

The warning signals were blaring out loud before a ball had even been bowled in Bridgetown. A couple of two-day 12-a-side warm-up matches are far from ideal preparation for a Test series, with James Anderson admitting as much and that England would just have to “make do”.

Low and behold, the first Test was a disaster for the tourists, from the inexplicable decision to pick Adil Rashid ahead of Stuart Broad, being bowled out for 77 in the first innings, seeing Jason Holder and Shane Dowrich smash 295 in the West Indies’ second innings on a wicketless third day, through to part-time spinner Roston Chase taking 8-60 to seal a 381-run battering.

Roston had previously taken one five-wicket haul in 26 Tests and failed to take another scalp for the rest of the series.

Holder has a series to remember

It is safe to say West Indies captain Holder will not forget this series in a hurry. The all-rounder’s unbeaten double-century, during his remarkable partnership with Dowrich in front of Holder’s home crowd at the Kensington Oval, came off just 229 balls, including eight sixes, and was the third highest score by a No 8 in Test cricket. Only Wasim Akram’s 257 not out and Imtiaz Ahmed’s 209 for Pakistan are better than Holder's 202.

He also chipped in with the ball, taking 4-43 to help skittle out England for 132 in the second Test and leave his side needing just 17 to win. And then to top it off, just as he was celebrating the greatest innings of his career and a series victory, Holder was hit with a one-match suspension for his team’s slow over rate in Antigua. West Indies’ management described the decision as “crippling” and called for a change in the rules.

Jason Holder was superb with the bat and chipped in with the ball during West Indies' Test series win over England. AFP
Jason Holder was superb with the bat and chipped in with the ball during West Indies' Test series win over England. AFP

Windies take another step in right direction

The glory days of the 1980s and 90s – and going 15 years without a Test series defeat – are long gone, and will never be repeated, but there are definite signs of recovery for the West Indies in Test cricket after a miserable few decades. They have beaten England and Bangladesh and drawn with Sri Lanka in the last three home series and captain Holder insists the team’s goal is to become “No 1 team in the world” again. Ambitious, certainly, but in the batting of Holder, Dowrich and Chase and the bowling of 22-year-old Alzarri Joseph as well as man of the series Kemar Roach (who took an impressive 18 wickets and, at 30, is reaching his peak years) – the Windies have the core of a decent side.

Cricket - West Indies v England - Third Test - Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium, St Lucia - February 12, 2019 England's Mark Wood celebrates with team mates after the match Action Images via Reuters/Paul Childs
Mark Wood took five wickets in a devastating spell of bowling in West Indies' first innings in St Lucia. Reuters

Wood helps England end on a high

It may have been a dead rubber, but England can at least take some heart from their 232-run win in the final Test, before thoughts turn to cricket’s shorter formats.

Decent knocks from captain Root, Jos Buttler, Denly and Ben Stokes were a welcome relief and seeing fast-bowler Mark Wood taking five wickets and regularly hitting 90mph in a ferocious first innings effort was a sight to behold.

Genuine pace is a vital part of any bowling attack and having injury-plagued Wood fit to take on Australia will be vital to England's hopes of winning back the Ashes.

Updated: February 13, 2019 09:37 PM

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