So in the end it all came down to an aberration in the first test match. Despite getting Oh So Close on two occasions and making the running for most of the series, England were unable to force a victory to level the series. However, being the glass half full man that I am, there is plenty to build on from this series, as well as an equal amount that needs to be learnt quickly.
1. The dropping of Monty Panesar has resulted in him coming back with more variation than he has shown in his test career to date. He still needs to learn that his appealing is costing him wickets, but he could again be the match winner England need, rather than the stock bowler he had become.
2. Graham Swann as the other spinner is also a potential match winner and we could see the start of spin twins playing even in home tests.
3. Stuart Broad has tightened up his economy and found a way to take wickets on the flattest pitches imaginable. I seems inconceivable that he and James Anderson won’t get the new ball for the foreseeable future.
4. Speaking of Anderson, he seems to have come of age as the senior quick bowler. He bowled with no luck whatsoever, but almost forced the final victory. He had a much better series than his statistics suggest.
5. Matt Prior is a test match batsman. Could he also be the answer to our problems at Number 3? It should certainly make sure that Andrew Flintoff goes back to being the number 7 batsman he is clearly more comfortable with.
6. Although tempered by the flat pitches, most of our batsmen did cash in on the runs available. Only one batsman missed out, and more on him later (3 below). In particular, Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood not only scored runs, but did so in a positive fashion that hadn’t been seen for a while.
To be learnt
1. The dropping of Steve Harmison last year hasn’t had a long term effect on his bowling and along with Ryan Sidebottom, whose body is stopping him from bowling with any zip, his days as an international cricketer should be at an end. This leaves a space in the England bowling attack for someone to break into if England don’t go down the two spinner route.
2. England should take note that their best bowling performance was in the last innings when they had adopted a hugely positive approach to getting a win. Their batting put the WIndies on the back foot and they were able to create pressure and momentum which threw the opposition off kilter.
3. Owais Shah is not a test player. It gives me no pleasure to write that, but he looked out of his depth on the most batsman friendly pitches he will ever play on and his fielding is a liability. England (as ever) have an issue with their number 3 batsman. Ian Bell clearly looks more comfortable when he bats down the order, as does Ravi Bopara. This may leave a space for Michael Vaughan, if he rediscovers his form in county cricket or we may have to look for a more radical solution (see 5 above).
4. Matt Prior is not test class as a wicket-keeper. His batting is as good as any wicket-keeper since Alec Stewart. However, he still needs to work on the keeping side of things.
5. If England are going to go into a series so underprepared as to throw the first match, then they need to learn how to win on unresponsive pitches. In fact, England just plain need to learn to win again.
My fervent hope from this series is that it marks a renaissance of West Indian cricket. They clearly have some talented players and with Dwain Bravo to come back into the fold, they should be a more successful team than they are currently.
From an England point of view, from the South African series onwards, there have been a catalogue of missed opportunities. The results have not matched the performances, but it is the results that the team will be judged on. This needs to be addressed and quickly.