The performance of Chris Woakes on the last day of this series sums up the riches England have in their seam-bowling department right now. And it poses a nice problem for the selectors if Ben Stokes is fit to bowl for next week’s first Test against Pakistan.
In these conditions, the seam attack they fielded in the third game was one of best I’ve seen. But they’ll always need to keep one eye on building an attack capable of taking 20 wickets overseas: there’s no getting away from the fact that the next two winters bring tours of India and Australia.
For that reason, I’d leave Woakes out of the first game against Pakistan, which ensures one of the two fast-and-nasties gets a game: I’d start with Jofra Archer ahead of Mark Wood, with Wood potentially coming in later in the series.
Chris Woakes’ superb showing sums up England’s riches in their seam-bowling department
But Woakes should be left out of the first Pakistan Test with Jofra Archer given the nod instead
That might sound harsh on Woakes, who took five-for on Tuesday and showed why he’s such a dangerous customer in England. But they’ll always need two English-style seamers in a home Test, and that has to be Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad.
The selectors inexplicably left Broad out of the first game against West Indies, and they won’t repeat the mistake against Pakistan. But Anderson has already said he expects to play in four of the summer’s six Tests, so when he – or Broad – sits out the second game against the Pakistanis, Woakes can slot in there.
These are the dilemmas the selectors face now, and don’t forget there’s also Sam Curran waiting in the wings, not to mention young guys like Olly Stone and Ollie Robinson.
The hosts need two English-style seamers and they must be Stuart Broad and Jimmy Anderson
A word for Stuart Broad, who collected his 500th Test wicket on Tuesday, then finished the game off with the first ball of a new spell. He’s improving all the time, which is quite a feat at the age of 34, and he’s shown his willingness to pitch the ball up, which reflects well on Chris Silverwood and Joe Root.
But for me his greatest asset is his competitiveness, whether it’s with his own selection panel or the opposition – or even Anderson, because you can be sure Broad will want to close the gap on his mate before their careers come to an end.
Broad has what Duncan Fletcher used to refer to as ‘dog****’. In other words, he has that edge that makes you want him as a team-mate and makes opponents hate him.
Broad, who had collected his 500th Test wicket on Tuesday, is improving all the time aged 34
He also works incredibly hard. He’s gone through difficult periods, especially with his wrist position, but he goes away and suddenly posts a video on Instagram of him training alone on a dark morning at Trent Bridge.
He’s even tried to make improvements in his batting, as we saw in the first innings. That’s not the attitude of a guy who wants to quietly see out his career and take the money. He’s an all-time great, and England are lucky to have him.
They were also lucky to have West Indies as guests this summer. Jason Holder’s boys deserve huge credit for visiting the UK during a pandemic, and English cricket owes them a huge amount for making the sacrifice. They might not be flying home with the Wisden Trophy, but their contribution to the summer has gone far beyond runs and wickets.
West Indies deserve credit for visiting in the pandemic and cricket owes them a huge amount
I felt West Indies’ batsmen would be vulnerable in these conditions due to their first-class stats
In terms of how the series went, I always felt West Indies’ batsmen would be vulnerable in these conditions. When you look at their first-class stats, none of them average 40, and a guy like Shai Hope hasn’t played a red-ball game for Barbados since March 2017.
In the one game where they did make 300, they went on to win – though I believe that was because England got too cute and broke up their greatest-ever new-ball opening partnership.
Had Broad played at the Ageas Bowl, I believe Ben Stokes would have chosen to bowl rather than bat, and England would have skittled West Indies for under 200, as they did in each of the last three innings of the series.
The way they played in the two Manchester games was much more like it. Big first-innings runs, then let loose their bowlers. Silverwood will be thrilled that it’s now brought him wins against South Africa and West Indies. Now for Pakistan.