After the horrendous defeat in Barbados there were bound to be changes for England’s second Test against West Indies in Antigua, but I was still a bit surprised to see Keaton Jennings dropped.
I thought his unbeaten 146 against Sri Lanka in November might have bought Jennings a bit more time at the top of the order.
However, he keeps making the same mistakes and a clear weakness against fast bowling is a serious problem for an opener. Jennings has no consistency, doesn’t move his feet and continues to edge the seamers into the slip cordon.
While an average of 25.86 over 16 Tests is a good reason to make a change, I feel the drafting in of Joe Denly is an off-the-cuff decision, rather than a measured plan.
Had the selectors stuck with him, Jennings’ problems would have been even more evident against Australia in the Ashes, but with just three Tests between then and now Denly doesn’t have long to settle.
Point to prove
Denly has waited a long time for his chance in Test cricket and at 32 years old he has nothing to lose. He’s hungry to prove a point and knows if he performs a position is available in the long-term – even if it’s not his preferred one.
I played against the Kent right-hander lots of times and he’s a difficult man to bowl to when he’s in a confident, attacking mode. Having played successfully all around the world in Twenty20 cricket he shouldn’t be fazed by the big occasion.
While he’s primarily being picked to make runs, Denly’s leg-spin is no doubt a factor in his selection as it gives England a new way of adding a second spinner into the side.
Adil Rashid has returned home for the birth of his second child, but he probably would have been dropped anyway.
Rashid is a hard bowler to captain, as he serves up plenty of poor deliveries in amongst the occasional magic ones. West Indies’ batsmen targeted him in the first Test and England paid the price for their selection.
He can be such a frustrating player and Joe Root hasn’t found a method of using him yet.
Stuart Broad is back, and rightly so, having missed out because of a bad call in Barbados. He’ll take the new ball with James Anderson for the first time in five Tests, reuniting England’s best ever bowling partnership, who’ve taken 1,003 wickets between them.
Itching to make a statement
Broad is itching to make a statement. Now he has to back up the talk that he’s bowling the best he ever has.
England will be weary about picking two specialist spinners again so I think Jack Leach will be the one to miss out, unless the pitch absolutely demands one.
In general the bowling is in a good place – it’s the batting unit who need to stand up. West Indies have momentum and pumped-up fast bowlers, so now must be favourites in Antigua.
Having collapsed once again England need to bounce back, like they did following defeats against Pakistan and India last summer.
Being bowled out for 77 should be embarrassing and provide all the motivation they need to come out fighting to level the series.