The third and final Test of the Wisden Trophy between England and West Indies got underway at Old Trafford in Manchester yesterday. The first series post the pandemic has been quite good, despite the new playing rules and empty stadiums.
West Indies played good all-round cricket in the first Test to go 1-0 up before the home side bounced back strongly, thanks to No. 1 all-rounder Ben Stokes, to level the series at the same venue as the ongoing third Test.
The series well and truly came alive after England won the second Test in the final hour a few days ago. With everything to play for, Jason Holder sprung a surprise once again at the coin toss for the 3rd Test. He called the right side of the coin for the third consecutive time, and he decided to bowl first once again.
Only two days have passed in the Test, but already it seems a bad call by Jason Holder. Let us look at the reasons as to why it was not a good decision to bowl first.
#1. Dry looking pitch
As was the case in the second Test, the 22 yards to be used for the final Test looked very dry. The brown wicket suggested that the bounce would start getting lower as the Test match progresses, and the bowlers’ foot marks would come to the aid of spinners going into the final couple of days.
Holder mentioned the overhead conditions during the toss and some moisture underneath the wicket as the reasons to bowl first, but it seemed a very defensive move because it was well known that batting would become easy after the first session.
#2. Extra spin bowling option
The nature of the pitch forced West Indies to include off spinner Rahkeem Cornwall in place of seamer Alzarri Joseph. Along with Roston Chase, West Indies went into the final Test with two spin bowling options.
When a side decides to pick an extra spinner, they are expected to bowl last on a wearing track rather than on the first day when the wicket plays true. Although Cornwall bowled well, he could have been more dangerous in the 4th innings.
Considering the change, the move to bowl first seemed very strange from West Indies.
#3. Extra day of rest for the bowlers
The schedule of this Test series is such that there is very little time in between Tests and it can be very demanding on the players, especially fast bowlers. Shannon Gabriel looked very stiff on the first day and had to visit the dressing room on a number of occasions.
If West Indies had decided to bat first, there could have been an extra day of rest for their quicks and they could have been a little more effective.
#4. Behind the eight-ball already
All that the West Indies need from this Test is a draw to retain the Wisden Trophy, because they are the current holders. With lots of rain forecast for the next couple of days, West Indies could have put runs on the board and put pressure on the home side to force a result.
England reached a commanding 258-4 at the end of day one and because of that, West Indies are already behind the eight-ball in this Test.
Root’s men wont complain one bit about the visitors’ decision to bowl first on a dry and roughed-up surface.
Published 25 Jul 2020, 22:29 IST