Cricket is back and running!
It has been a long time coming but personally I think ECB and the WICB have made the right decision at the right time. With the news that the 1st of August will mark the start of the delayed county season and recreational cricket returning on the 11th of July, one has reason to hope that cricket will steadily return to normal.
West Indies vs England is the first high profile cricket series since the start of lockdown and this will mean that the rest of the cricketing world will be watching this series from afar and no one really knows how it will go.
So many different questions will be answered in this 3 match series: Will the absence of a crowd affect the performances of players? How exactly are the players going to replace saliva? Will the extended time away from the game and with families affect the player’s performance negatively or positively? Will bowlers have a higher risk of getting injured?
The whole series is up in the air for debate and theories as a massive question mark looms over this series and how it may go. However, all we can do is wait and watch the mayhem unfold as it happens…
What you need to know
- With England captain Joe Root confirmed to miss the first test for the birth of his baby, Ben Stokes, as vice-captain, is set to be his replacement. Questions have been raised over whether this added responsibility will hamper Ben Stokes’s all-round ability which is so crucial to a potential England victory.
- Kemar Roach, the West Indies opening bowler, has clarified that there will be “no friendships” with Jofra Archer, who was born and raised in Barbados. Shane Dowrich has also claimed that “West Indies would not swap any of their bowlers for Jofra Archer”. You can expect some fierce rivalry between the West Indians and the man who set the world cup and ashes alight last year.
- Jason Holder, the touring team’s captain and ICC ranked No1 test allrounder in the world, has reported a slight niggle in his knee and took little part in the team’s warm-up game. However, West Indies are not worried about this in the slightest as Phil Simmons, the head coach, has dismissed it as being “not a concern” to the relief of the West Indies followers.
- Stuart Broad is “worried” about not being able to produce his best form without the support of the fans in the crowd. He has even consulted the team’s sports psychologist to combat this fear. This may be concerning news for England fans.
Shane Dowrich, the first choice West Indies wicket keeper, does not have pleasant memories at all about the last time he toured England: when West Indies last visited England, Dowrich averaged an abysmal 4.80 as his lack of experience in English conditions proved to be his demise.
However, ever since that harrowing experience, he has drastically improved his game to such an extent that no other wicket keeper batsman has scored more runs at a better average than him since 2018 and has subsequently cemented his spot in the West Indies line up.
Despite this recent success, Shane Dowrich will want to prove that he has got the ability to do well in England as he assures fans that he is a “different player to 3 years ago” and also declared that he aims to “average around 40 in this series”. He has good reason to be optimistic for a successful series but only time will tell if he has the technique to thrive in English conditions.
Ever since Moeen took a break from the international arena after his shocking performance in the first test of last year’s ashes, the left-arm spinner Jack Leach has impressed with solid but arguably unspectacular performances. Not to mention his 92 as a night watchman and his legendary 1 not out in the Ben Stokes Headingley test (you know what I’m talking about).
More recently Dom Bess, the former understudy of Jack Leach at Somerset, has shown some encouraging promise in the recent South Africa series as he showed some metronomic control that seemed beyond his 22 years while claiming an impressive 5 wicket haul.
Also, the 21-year-old Amar Virdi(more on him later) who also seems to be a gifted young off-spinner who could add to the enlarging spin arsenal that England are beginning to possess. This sudden emergence spells bad news for the seasoned Moeen Ali as he needs to show why he became the first-choice spinner in the first place by putting up some solid performances with the ball and whacking a few at the end with the bat. Before it is too late…
Jos Buttler, the England wicketkeeper, is extremely fortunate to not be on the chopping block(read more to find out who gets this unfortunate distinction) as his recent performances in test match cricket as 1 hundred in 40 odd test matches is simply not acceptable for a player of his batting talent.
However, Ed Smith, unsurprisingly, has chosen to stick with Jos Buttler despite the statistics clearly stating for him not to. In contrast to dropping him, they have handed him the vice-captaincy in the wake of Joe Root’s absence and Ben Stokes’s temporary promotion. Many critics are blasting the selectors for their ignorance and I have to agree.
Ben Foakes has been waiting in the wings for a long time now and is probably rather fed up. However, no one would be delighted to be proven wrong by Buttler as me as I think that he does have the talent to succeed on the biggest stage but he has to show it in this series.
Players to watch out for
I am a massive fan of the big man and I think that this test series could be his reckoning to the cricketing world.
Cornwall’s biggest strength is the steep bounce he can generate from his towering 6 foot 5 frame, which is unusually tall for an off-spinner, and he used his natural bounce to good effect as he snared Cheteshwar Pujara as his first test wicket, the man who has arguably the best defensive game in the world. Not a bad first scalp!
When you look past his weight, Cornwall has the potential to become one of the world’s leading spinners. There’s a reason that Virat Kohli, the world’s best batsman, specifically asked Cornwall to bowl at him to help him prepare for Kohli’s next test match. This was even before Cornwall made his test debut!
After many years of hiding,it is time Rahkeem Cornwall announced himself to the world.
Amar Virdi, a vital cog in Surrey’s 2018 championship-winning team, has expressed his confidence that he will win his first test cap this summer. With whispers of a rotating squad, this lofty ambition looks like it may become a reality…
I had a look at a few clips of Amar Virdi and I was impressed: he has a textbook off spinner’s action and gives it a lot of flight and imparts a lot of revolutions upon the ball. Vikram Solanki, the recently appointed head coach of Surrey, elaborates further as he said that “He’s a very talented offspinner. He has the ability to spin the ball and is a very attacking bowler. And that could set him apart”.
As Solanki states, Amar Virdi looks like he has some real attacking pedigree, something Jack Leach and maybe even Dom Bess lack, and this is really exciting if you are an England fan.
If I’m being honest, I am totally in the dark about Chemar Holder but when I saw some of his clips, I thought he had a bit of Jofra Archer about him.
Similar to his fellow Barbadian, he has a languid run-up but has some nippy pace. There is a lot of excitement in the cricketing community about this 22-year prodigy but the West Indies already have a strong bowling line up so his arrival is looking unlikely at the present moment.
However, many believe that, along with Alzarri Joseph, Holder could form the future of the great West Indies fast bowling production line but former test opener Philo Wallace believes “someone like him could shock the Englishmen”. Perhaps Chemar Holder is worth the gamble for the West Indies but he is far from the finished article as there is more yet to come.
On the chopping block
I love Joe Denly. I really do. However, I am afraid that he must be put on the chopping block.
Joe Denly has been a consistent county batsman for Kent over the years and has been rewarded for his consistency with a stand-in No3 role for the 3 lions. He has a half-decent average of 30 considering the bowling attacks he has faced but other than that he has done nothing special.
The only reason he has been persisted with is his ability to bat time, something his fellow teammates have failed to do. For example, Denly played some very ungainly innings in Ashes as the bowlers were dominating him thoroughly except the fact that they could not seem to get out. However, this stubbornness only lasted for a few balls except for the time he got 94 in the ashes.
In all, the 32-year-old Joe Denly’s time is running out as there is an exciting new talent on the block in Zak Crawley, a fellow Kent player. Crawley will only improve with chances and opportunities so Joe Denly has to be shown the way out so the new era of English cricket can start to take place…
Predicted England XI for the first test
- Rory Burns: He is close to cementing his spot after his Ashes exploits but needs to get some runs to truly stamp his authority at the top of the order.
- Dom Sibley: Sibley has his technical flaws but he has done enough to have a spot in the 1st test.
- Joe Denly: Despite my earlier comments, I think England need an experienced head at No3 in the absence of Joe Root but only for the first test.
- Zak Crawley: A young talent who will only get better with chances.
- Ben Stokes: Let’s see how his captaincy goes…
- Olly Pope: Looks like a very classy batsman. He should be batting at 6 until further experience.
- Jos Butler: Has to score runs in this series if he wants to stay in the side.
- Moeen Ali: Has to perform otherwise his place is at stake. Personally, I would pick Dom Bess but I have a suspicion that the selectors will prefer Moeen.
- Jofra Archer: Has Mark Wood hot on his heels but I think Archer is comfortably in the strongest XI.
- Stuart Broad: Self-explanatory.
- James Anderson: Ditto.
I think that this series will be more closely contested than people think it will be, provided the West Indies’s highly potent fast bowling attack performs to their full potential. Something that has held back West Indies in the past is that they generally don’t possess a dependable high-quality spinner who is equally capable of holding up an end as he is of running through the opposition batsman on a 5th-day pitch. However, I think they have found one in Rahkeem Cornwall. With a well-rounded attack, the West Indies will fancy themselves a chance of penetrating the inexperienced top order of England.
However, England are not favourites for no reason as they boast 2 of the most statistically great bowlers of our generation, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, and the best match-winner England has had since Andrew Flintoff in Ben Stokes. And if Joe Root returns to his former run-scoring machine self, it will be a massive mountain for the West Indies to climb, especially considering how formidable England has been in home conditions in recent years.
Considering this home domination, I think England will marginally win this series 2:1 but not without a fight from the West Indians…