After England’s humiliating 10-wicket defeat in the third and final Test against West Indies, the usual questions once again cropped up. How can the young hitters on the team correct their techniques? Will Joe Root remain captain? Is the departmental championship adapted to your objective? Who will be the next coach? What to do next with Stuart Broad and James Anderson?
In the immediate spotlight after the series defeat in the Caribbean were England’s remarkable batting slumps on pitches that produced dismal draws.
England’s young batters have work to do
To put it simply, England have an oversupply of young white ball talent, or even just one inning wonders.
But the requirement of Test Cricket is far more difficult as a batter must spend hours in the middle and in the net, honing a technique that can withstand countless hours of top-notch bowling.
The onus is on test hitters to make sound decisions for long stretches, with any slippage in focus often contributing to their downfall.
England’s batters are now excised for going through lapses in focus, with a stack of them repeating a cycle of picking, not performing, dropping and then reappearing when external pressure is at its highest.
England lack players at the top of the order who can fight for a long time and build meaningful partnerships, often dumping extra expectation and hope on Joe Root. If the skipper falls early, it often leads to a batting slump for his side.
Realistically, England have just two other senior batters in their roster alongside Root – Jonny Bairstow and Ben Stokes. The experienced duo beat in the middle order, leaving additional pressure on the fragile top order.
The lackluster scores of late have not been singled out as one-off opportunities. They perform regularly, which has taken England to the bottom of the World Test Championship standings.
Moreover, the country’s first-class domestic setup does them no favors. The county championship is marginalized, making batting techniques increasingly scrutinized. Technical concerns begin with players not developing properly through the emergence of white-ball cricket.
The County Championship has long been a breeding ground for defensive skills, but that important learning is falling apart. The first national competition allows hitters to learn how to defend.
Leading English cricket broadcaster David Lloyd believes the County Championship is essential for developing Test-match worthy striking skills. He explained, speaking to the Daily Mail:
“I am old school and believe that young players will learn the game in their counties, experiencing the rigors of its different conditions, grounds and opponents. For young players to improve, however, you have to play cricket county no earlier than May, play three divisions, keep all 18 counties and hold a one-on-one competition during the summer.”
He said the best hitters to play the game could all hit the ball, but could also defend one too, adding:
“I’ll give you a few names: Viv Richards, Martin Crowe, Kevin Pietersen, Brian Lara, Virat Kohli. You associate them all with expansive stroke play. But they only went that route when the situation called for it. If they felt it was time to take stock and absorb a good bowling, they might. All the great players in this game have been able to switch gears like that.
England’s spectacular striker collapses in the third Test
Root’s side fell to 114/9 on Day 1 before an innings-saving last wicket stand took them to 204 in the third and final litmus test of the series.
After the Windies posted 297 in response, the visitors’ second innings followed a similar story on day three. England were won for just 120, thanks to an incredible bowling fight from West Indies point guard Kyle Mayer, who came back with numbers of 18/5 from 17 overs.
The hosts chased the platyr’s goal of 28 without losing a wicket, thus winning the series.
England will then host New Zealand for a three-game Test series in June, before a rescheduled one-off Test match against India in July and a three-game series against South Africa in August-September.
It remains to be seen if Joe Root and Co. can hone their techniques to avoid similar meltdowns at bat in the upcoming series.