England romped home to another convincing victory against the power packed West Indies by eight wickets to advance to the second spot on the points table. West Indies didn't even put up a fight and barring Nicholas Pooran, none of the Windies' batsmen managed to cross the 50-run mark.
Joe Root - the batsman, the bowler
In this era, one cannot afford to step a foot wrong and mediocrity is heavily penalised. While playing five specialist bowlers has become a mandate, the option of having an extra option or two is no less than a boon in this batsman-dominated game. It is always handy when a part-timer can sneak in a few overs and it is extraordinary when the same bowler can chip in with two crucial wickets to turn the game on its head.
Against the explosive West Indies line-up, England opted for extra pace in Mark Wood and Moeen Ali continued to be benched. After a rocky start, West Indies middle-order was weathering the early storm when Joe Root broke their spine with two crucial wickets. He first got rid of Shimron Hetmyer and then outfoxed Jason Holder with a seam up delivery.
With other bowlers failing to get the breakthrough, Eoin Morgan made a smart move by getting an off-spinner into the attack while there were two-left handers at the crease. And Root repaid the faith with interest. Root is actually a handy off-spinner and his outing with the ball today will only infuse immense confidence for the matches to come.
England are a side that are heavily reliant on their batting to bail them out of tricky situations; they don’t have an equally threatening bowling attack, which demands variety and plethora of options. And Root’s accomplishments with the ball today will do just that. With the bat, he was once again outstanding and gunned down the modest total with ease. He was asked to open the batting today since Jason Roy pulled a hamstring, but Root remained unfazed and did what he does the best – anchor the run-chase with a brilliant ton.
England’s pace attack gradually gaining momentum
As discussed above, England are not a side that boast of an intimidating bowling attack. They are effective, but the threatening factor is certainly missing. Although Jofra Archer’s inclusion has strengthened the attack by far, there is still that X-factor missing, which is evidently seen in teams like India, Australia or even Pakistan and South Africa.
However, if a team manage to pull their weight together rather than relying on individual brilliance, they can be effective - very effective. In four games so far, one wouldn’t be wrong in saying that the English attack has actually done a commendable job. Barring the game against Pakistan, their bowlers have managed to pick wickets at regular intervals and didn’t let the opposition cross the 300-run mark. In fact, South Africa and West Indies were folded for 207 and 212 respectively.
English pacers have scalped 29 wickets between them, which appears to be a sign of them gaining momentum. Talking about this game, Windies were expected to put up a fighting total on the batting-friendly surface of Southampton, but it wasn’t to be. Timely strikes by their pacers and crucial wickets from Root saw them being dismantled for a paltry total of 212.
Chris Woakes has shown great control while Jofra Archer has been brimming with raw pace, movement and deceptive bounce. Mark Wood, on the other hand, has banked on accuracy while Liam Plunkett has papered over the cracks. With every game, the attack is only getting better, which is a good sign as the team might have a settled and performing unit in the business end if things continue to progress as expected.
West Indies’ senior players need to get going
West Indies are an exciting side; they have match-winners but barring the first game they haven’t clicked as a unit. They have a fine combination of brute force and finesse as well as experience and young legs. However, the senior stars like Chris Gayle, Andre Russell and Carlos Brathwaite have failed to live up to the expectations and need to get big runs under their belts.
Gayle has got good starts but West Indies need daddy hundreds from the southpaw, which he is quite capable of. In three innings so far, Gayle has managed scores of 50, 21 and 36, which is an indication of being in rhythm but unable to convert into substantial scores. For Windies to succeed, it is pivotal for the Jamaican to fire and set the tone at the top. When Gayle gets going, he not only scores runs at a brisk rate but also makes batting looks easy.
Russell is coming fresh on the back of a maverick form but has failed to weave similar magic in two games (15 & 21), where he batted so far. He didn’t look out of form but kept getting out, which is hurting the side massively in the middle. Brathwaite, on the other hand, got out at crucial junctures. He had ample of overs left today and could have justified his selection with a steady total, but a short delivery got the better of him.
In fact, the young guns have done reasonably well and if the senior players start going, Windies will certainly do a lot better than what they eventually did.
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