3rd over: England 6-1 (Burns 3, Root 3) Root digs out a first-ball yorker from Roach, and then scrunches another attempted yorker through midwicket for three to get off the mark. Whatever the situation, Root is busy as soon as he walks out to bat.
“Good morning Rob,” says Darrel Boulcott. “I am wondering if Crawley has been dropped for an extra bowler because Stokes is injured? Really it makes no sense to play an injured man as a batter when Crawley is fully fit and ready to go. Surely it is better to rest Stokes so that he can recover.”
That’s definitely why Crawley has been left out, though it is still a big risk because they have further weakned their weaker suit. But Stokes plays because he is 100 per cent fit to bat, and he is the best batsman in the team.
2nd over: England 3-1 (Burns 3, Root 0) Burns inside-edges Gabriel’s first ball in the air but well wide of short leg. That aside it’s a quiet first over. West Indies could do serious damage today, with the out-of-form Jos Buttler at No6. Talking of which…
“Rob,” says John Starbuck. “You might be treating Chris Woakes’s record rather harshly, given he achieved a certain record in the last game. We all have to revise our views at times.”
I think he averages 26 with the bat I think. Admirable player, emergency World Cup opener, impeccable human being, but to me he’s not quite an allrounder.
1st over: England 1-1 (Burns 1, Root 0) That’s Sibley’s second duck of the series to go with a fifty and a hundred. He tried to work to leg, as is his wont, missed and was plumb in front. Sibley discussed a review but it would have been a waste. Joe Root is the new batsman, and England are one wicket away from being in big trouble. Already.
WICKET! England 1-1 (Sibley LBW b Roach 0)
A great start for the West Indies! Dominic Sibley has gone fifth ball for nought, pinned in front by a beautiful inswinger from Roach.
It’ll be Kemar Roach to bowl the first ball to Rory Burns…
“Morning Rob, morning all,” says Matt Turland. “I’ve just about recovered from the shambling shower of a Wednesday night when Forest out-Forest’d themselves. So I’m hoping (against my better judgement) that this Test can cheer me up.
“Batting is looking a little light here. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not for one minute suggesting Crawley would have guaranteed us a first innings score of 400+ but it still looks worrying light. Presumably, it’s a decision that is based around wanting to win (and thus having your best bowlers on the pitch), while also thinking about the Pakistan series (and being able to rotate and rest said best players). All I know is that footer can do one and cricket best not let me down again.”
Yeah, I don’t really like a team that has the keeper at No6, even if it’s Adam Gilchrist, unless there’s a proper allrounder at No7. Chris Woakes isn’t quite that. I think England will win but I’m nowhere near as confident as I was an hour ago. This could be a pulsating first session.
The players on both sides trot down the steps, resplendent in their red caps to mark the second Ruth Strauss Foundation Test. If you’d like to donate, click here.
“I see England have gone with three No11s again,” says Richard O’Hagan. “This is bad for the psyche of those of us who remember the nightmare of Tufnell, Mullally and Giddins all fighting for the #9 spot.”
Come on, Archer’s not a No11. His batting has been a disappointment so far but he’s still at worst a No10.
“Hi Rob,” says Dan Hunt. “Looks like Stokes won’t be bowling in this test then. Five-man attack and Big Ben as a specialist batsman. Lot of pressure on Buttler, Woakes and Bess to find 100 runs between them minimum when England bat. If I was someone who’d started watching cricket in the ‘90’s I’d be thinking this was set up for a spectacular England batting collapse at some point…”
“Any respect I have for Holder as a captain is severely tempered by his often choosing to bowl at the toss,” says Robert Speed. “Although being a bowler himself means it’s not as if he’s trying to avoid facing up to the task at hand (as opposed to if he was an opening batsman), I see bowling first as a negative, passive and frankly soft option. It was particularly indefensible in the second Test given that the pace bowlers were predictably tired after the quick turn-around from the first Test. I predict it won’t work out here for WI once more.”
I know what you mean, but surely batting first is the safer option? You know that if you bowl first and it goes wrong, you’ll be Brisbaned, whereas if you bat first and are bowled out in 36.4 overs, the batsmen rather than the captain get the blame.
The brother-in-law of a friend of an old friend spent lockdown inventing a new game – FlickIt Cricket. It looks like oodles of fun, especially if you have immediate descendants. And the good news is you can play it with people from your support bubble!
I think. Don’t quote me on that. Disclaimer: the guardian.com is not legally responsible for anything.
I’m off to grab a coffee and think about whether England have taken too big a gamble with that team selection. LOOK, I SAID I NEED TO THINK ABOUT IT. See you back here for the first ball at 11am.
“Morning, Smyth,” says Sean Clayton. “Rhodes over Jack Russell? Not having that – JR’s Test batting average was marginally higher and his ‘keeping was far better than Rhodes, Stewart* or anyone else from that era.
“*I’m not proud of it but I always had an irrational dislike of Alec Stewart just for keeping Russell out of the Test side in the mid-late 90s, even if the rationale – we needed an ‘extra’ specialist batsman, given the state of our batting in the 90s – made sense. I seem to recall Micky Stewart, as team manager, forcefully arguing for his son to be the successor to Gooch as captain (Atherton got the job), which didn’t endear the Stewarts to me either…”
I think that’s a wee bit harsh – in his autobiography, the newly released paperback of which I am definitely not plugging here, Robin Smith says that Micky Stewart was tougher on Alec than pretty much anyone else in the England team. As for Steve Rhodes, that was just a Ray Illingworth joke. I’ve got plenty more if you like. Oh.
England’s team selection is very interesting – Zak Crawley and Sam Curran have been replaced by Jofra Archer and Jimmy Anderson. Leaving out Crawley is a not insignificant gamble, especially in view of Jos Buttler’s form. West Indies, as expected, bring in Rahkeem Cornwall for Alzarri Joseph.
West Indies Campbell, Brathwaite, Hope, Brooks, Blackwood, Chase, Holder, Dowrich (wk), Cornwall, Roach, Gabriel.
England Burns, Sibley, Root, Stokes, Pope, Buttler (wk), Woakes, Bess, Archer, Broad, Anderson.
West Indies have won the toss and will bowl first
That’s a brave call given what happened in the second Test.
This is the second #RedforRuth Test, with both teams raising money for the Ruth Strauss Foundation. You can donate and read more about the foundation here, and I’d urge you to read Andrew Strauss’s interview with Zoe Williams. If there’s a more impressive man in the world than Strauss, I’d love to meet him.
The forecast isn’t great for this test, with showers predicted for days 2-4. Today? Well, I’d probably expect a dry but largely cloudy morning with the best of the sunshine across the north. Through the afternoon, the cloud will begin to break up, allowing for widespread sunny spells. Feeling warm. Maximum temperature 23 °C.
The toss is at 10.30am, and there will plenty of interest in the England XI. They will leave out at least two and possibly three of their sextet of seamers: Anderson, Archer, Broad, Curran, Woakes and Wood.
Since you asked so politely, I’d be happy with any combination. If I was a Ray Illingworth-style supremo, I’d include Stuart Broad and pick the rest of the attack based on conditions, morale and fitness. And I’d have Steve Rhodes at No7.
West Indies also need to decide whether their quick bowlers can cope with a third Test in quick succession. The word on the Manchester street is that one of them will be replaced by the spin bowler Rahkeem Cornwall.
Hello. Now here’s a treat: a series decider. A proper series decider, where both sides can still win, lose or draw. They don’t came along as often as you might think. England had eight out of 24 in the 1990s, six out of 37 in the 2000s and only three out of 38 in the 2010s. The most recent was at Lord’s in 2017 against the West Indies, who are back to provide the first series decider of the 2020s.
It feels slightly strange to be talking about a grand finale, given the series started only 16 days ago. West Indies need a draw to retain the Wisden Trophy, but what they really want is to win in England for the first time since 1988. It would also be their first series victory away to one of the Big Eight since Courtney Walsh bulldozed New Zealand by taking 13 for 55 in 1994-95.
England need to win to save face. For all West Indies’ improvement, and the goodwill towards both sides for putting Test cricket back in our lives, England need to be winning series like this. A par score in this series was probably 2.5-0.5 to England. That scoreline is beyond them in more ways than one. But they can secure a niche bit of history: a victory here would make England the first team ever to win consecutive Test series after going 1-0 down.
(There’s an argument this bit of history would reflect poorly on them, as they shouldn’t have been going 1-0 down to South Africa and West Indies in the first place, but let’s accentuate the positive for now, eh.)