Nobody was expecting much from West Indies but it was a shock to learn how poor they were in the first Test at Edgbaston. It’s extremely sad to see their fall from grace and just how far they’ve plummeted over the years.
I grew up watching Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose and you think back to when West Indies were the dominating force of world cricket and used to intimidate and strike fear into opponents. At the moment, they just don’t have that aura.
A lot of their better players have sought richer opportunities around the world in Twenty20 cricket; Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo and Marlon Samuels, for instance, are currently playing in the Caribbean Premier League.
The seemingly endless dispute which leading players have with governing body Cricket West Indies exacerbates the issue and the result is a young side coming up against a very good England team in unfavourable conditions. There will only be one winner.
Ambrose, along with Australia’s Glenn McGrath, were my two biggest inspirations growing up. I used to love watching Ambrose, who took 405 wickets in 98 Tests between 1988 and 2000, bowl. He was tall, aggressive, fast and just bowled good areas.
He and Walsh were a great pair. I recall their battles in the late nineties and early 2000s against Michael Atherton, Alec Stewart and Graham Thorpe, who just hated having to play against them.
I was lucky enough to start my Hampshire career alongside former England batsman Robin Smith. I used to pick his brains and he used to tell me stories about locking horns with Ambrose and Walsh.
He used to recall how scary it was facing two huge bowlers who were bowling between 85 and 90mph with you not knowing where your next run is coming from. The likes of Ambrose inspired me to play Test cricket.
But West Indies simply cannot call upon bowlers of that calibre now. The Caribbean is more geared towards Twenty20 cricket these days and kids grow up having different inspirations to what I did. The plight of West Indies Test cricket is a sad state of affairs.
As for England, they did what they had to do and their victory by an innings and 209 runs reflects their superiority. I’m sure England will win the three-match series pretty comfortably and I can see the second Test at Headingley, which starts on Friday, being done and dusted fairly quickly.
The gentle nature of the series gives England the perfect opportunity to rotate the squad and rest either James Anderson and Stuart Broad, or both, and give valuable game-time to all-rounder Chris Woakes and leg-spinner Mason Crane.
Woakes has missed a lot of cricket this season with the side strain which ruled him out of the Champions Trophy, while it would be advantageous for Crane to be exposed to Test cricket if the selectors, as they appear to do, see him as a winter tourist to Australia.
Resting Anderson and/or Broad, whether that be at Headingley or at Lord’s next month, makes sense, although I’m sure neither would want to miss out with some pretty easy wickets to be had.
All bowlers enjoy their individual successes and you don’t want to be denied an opportunity to add to your Test wicket tally, especially after a series against South Africa where scalps were harder to come by.