• Five talking points: Cricket’s return

    The West Indies emphatically beat England by four wickets at the Ageas Bowl on Sunday. ANDRE HUISAMEN highlights five takeaways from international cricket’s return in Southampton.

    Root to bolster batting lineup

    Joe Denly’s struggles at No 3 intensified with a rather conservative approach with former England skipper Michael Vaughan laying into his ability to be a rock at the top of the order. Captain Joe Root’s return will almost definitely provide a lot more confidence and structure to the England batting lineup with the right-hander well capable of batting long and scoring frequently. England’s failure to post formidable totals in both innings in Southampton signified how badly Root’s capabilities were missed and, with Zak Crawley making 76 in the second innings, it will most likely mean Denly sits out in Manchester.

    Highlights: West Indies edge England

    Costly missed chances

    England made a solid start with the ball on Sunday as they tried to defend the small target of 200 set for the West Indies to win the match. Jofra Archer and Mark Wood had the visitors in trouble early on until a match-winning 95 by Jermaine Blackwood steered them home. Blackwood was, however, dropped on three occasions with Jos Buttler and Rory Burns in particular missing fairly straightforward chances, while Crawley had a decent chance of a run-out, which he fumbled. Given how instrumental Blackwood’s knock proved to be, England could have had the West Indies on the ropes had those chances been taken.

    Umpires under the cosh 

    A number of missed no-balls and certain decisions against the West Indies raised a few concerns about the use of local umpires under the new Covid-19 regulations. It even led to West Indies all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite taking to Twitter to indicate his frustration at the umpires, indicating all the decisions are going for the home team. But, as the Test match unfolded it became clear that the growing concern of umpires missing no-balls had only got worse with both teams being guilty of having bowlers overstepping on a regular basis, without the umpires picking it up. A number of on-field decisions were also overturned after replays showed bowlers failing to get any part of their foot behind the line.

    Buttler with much to prove

    Similar to Denly’s recent performances, Jos Buttler has also come under heavy scrutiny with many hinting at Ben Foakes as a possible replacement at wicketkeeper. Apart from his dropped catch on Sunday, Buttler has been struggling with consistency since the tour to South Africa at the beginning of the year with scores of 35 and 9 in Southampton. With Jonny Bairstow now firmly out of contention, a lot of people believe Buttler has failed to fully use his opportunities at Test level. With an average of only 18.36 since last year’s Ashes, Buttler appears to be falling behind the rest of the wicketkeepers in international cricket. Should he indeed feature in the second Test, then a lot will be riding on his ability with the bat against a fairly consistent West Indies bowling attack.

    READ: West Indies beat England to clinch first Test

    SA made England look good

    Taking nothing away from England’s impressive 3-1 win over the Proteas earlier this year, there might have been times where Joe Root and his men were handed momentum through poor bowling by South Africa or batsmen carelessly throwing their wickets away. Of course, England still have a lot of experienced players in their team but the West Indies unvovered a lot of weaknesses in the English set-up the last few days. England will undeniably be more focused and determined in Manchester, but during this first Test in Southampton it almost showed how far off the Proteas were in their Test series. Should the Proteas’ tour of the West Indies have gone ahead as scheduled then it would probably have been a rather testing and challenging two Test matches in the Caribbean.

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    Andre Huisamen