England have been hugely disappointing against West Indies. Having arrived full of confidence they begin the final Test this weekend with the aim of simply trying to salvage something.
After such a poor opening Test in Barbados they were once again out-played and out-thought in every department in Antigua to surrender the series 2-0.
Credit should go to West Indies, who dealt with the conditions better and were very worthy winners. The pitch was spicy, with the ball going through the top, which I thought made great viewing, with batsmen uncomfortable.
It was difficult for batsmen, but not impossible – as the hosts’ Darren Bravo and Kraigg Brathwaite proved with old school graft to get through the new ball and score against the old one.
England captain Joe Root couldn’t do anything about his two dismissals, but I feel in general the pitch was hidden behind as an excuse.
In reality England’s approach was over-aggressive. Their mindset was wrong. Yes, players like Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali are natural stroke-makers, but they have to become better at adapting to the situation and picking their moments.
Admittedly the top order are not protecting the middle order from the new ball, but these are talented batsmen who should be able to change their style accordingly. Like their opponents they should be thinking: take responsibility and grind it out, rather than going gung-ho.
Quite bluntly England got their tactics wrong. Head coach Trevor Bayliss is Australian and gets his philosophy from his home county where the pitches tend to encourage aggressive shot-making.
This approach is perfect for one-day cricket – where England have flourished in the past few years – but has also lead to frequent collapses in the Test arena.
Having won 3-0 in Sri Lanka over the winter it feels like we’re now back to square one.
England have expressed their desire to reach world No1 again. If they are to do so they need to find consistency and not be lurching from collapse to collapse.
No back-up batsmen
The fact Joe Denly has already been drafted into the side means there are no further back-up batsmen in the squad pushing for places. Looking ahead this can be a positive for batsmen in county cricket this season, because the door is open if you perform.
However, in the short term it means the current players need to pick up their form. They might not have others breathing down their necks, but they should be motivated by cutting out familiar mistakes and improving on recent results. Preventing a 3-0 whitewash is a good place to start in St Lucia on Saturday.
West Indies are weakened significantly by the absence of captain Jason Holder, who has been banned for a slow over-rate. I think this is the wrong decision by the International Cricket Council but it can help England.
Holder led his side brilliantly in the first two games, scoring a double-hundred and providing the crucial holding role with the ball, which allowed Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph to run in and bowl fast.
I expect the hosts will want a similar pitch to suit their fast bowlers. If that’s the case England’s batsmen better get ready for another stern examination.