Coming into the Test series as overwhelming favourites against a statistically weaker Windies unit, the Englishmen were brought down to their knees first by Kemar Roach who's spell 5/17 knocked them over for 77 in the first innings and then by Jason Holder & Shane Dowrich, both of whom combined for a record unbeaten 295-run stand for the seventh wicket. Chasing a mammoth 628 for a win in the final innings, England then capitulated against the spin of Roston Chase who finished with figures of 8/60 to go down by 381 runs.
Joe Root later admitted there were a few selection errors on England's part which will once again remain a talking point come Antigua. Recent history suggests the surface here has been sluggish and suited for slower bowlers. Meanwhile, Adil Rashid has temporarily left the tour and returned home for the birth of his second child. Left-arm spinner Jack Leach drafted in his place.
"Adil Rashid will leave the party during the second Test to return home as his wife is expecting their second child," said the England team on Twitter. "He will return ahead of the ODIs."
Apart from the bowling conundrum the batting too remains a worry for the visitors. They folded like a pack of cards in the first innings while in the second wilted against Chase, who at best is a part-time spinner on a surface which was not offering too much turn. The axe has fallen on opener Keaton Jennings with Joe Denly certain to make his Test debut.
“It gives Joe an opportunity,” Root said while announcing England's twelve-man squad. “It’s disappointing for Keaton [Jennings], he’s done some excellent things and he will continue to work on developing his game and be a big part of this squad.”
With two more Tests to go England will be fairly confident of bouncing back strongly and win the next two games and series. Root suffered an injury scare after being struck on the hand during nets but later confirmed he was fine. The Englishmen were seen practicing a lot of short pitch stuff after having been troubled by it in the first Test.
From Windies' point of view they were a buoyant unit when they strolled out for practice on the eve of the second day and why wouldn't they. The victory recorded in the first Test was their third-highest in terms of runs and came after four successive Test defeats at the hands of India and Bangladesh respectively.
While many would not have given them a chance, Windies showed what they can do as a unit and led by Jason Holder, who after his after first Test heroics is now the No.1 all-rounder in the world, certainly have the firepower to take the series in Antigua.
They ticked most boxes in the first Test. Debutant John Campbell looked settled in both innings that he played while Shai Hope, Chase and Shimron Hetmyer all got good runs in either innings. They will have to be careful about the all-familiar collapse that has been hounding them in recent times and if the batsmen can weather the early new ball some runs can be in for the taking.
The bowling was outstanding in both innings of the first Test. Roach was at his brutish best with the new ball and was well supported by Shannon Gabriel and Jason Holder while Chase was unplayable in the second innings. Oshane Thomas has been added as cover for the injured Alzarri Joseph and the Jamaican will be keen to unleash the pace if given a chance at Antigua.
The Windies might not be the same unbeatable unit of the past but they have been consistently improving - the victory in Barbados was their eighth win in their last 21 tests. They have defeated the likes of England, Pakistan, Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in recent times and Holder will hope his men can go out at Antigua and present another strong performance and get the team over the line.
The Vivian Richards Stadium has been kind to Windies. They have won two, lost one and drawn three Tests at the venue. The surface at the stadium is expected to be slow with spin likely to play its part from the outset.
Windies: Jason Holder (c), Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich (WK), Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Oshane Thomas, Jomel Warrican
England 12-man squad: Rory Burns, Joe Denly, Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root (c), Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Ben Foakes, Sam Curran, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson, Jack Leach
First Published: January 30, 2019, 6:22 PM IST