ROOT, HALES TONS SET UP 186-RUN VICTORY AT BRIDGETOWN
No disrespect to this West Indies team, but with depleted ranks, against a very capable England unit, this was very much a case of job done, onto the next one.
It was a series negotiated with minimal fuss, but for a couple of batting collapses, in the end it was all quite emphatic being rounded off with a 186-run at Bridgetown.
England will have wanted to be tested, and at times they have been. Falling from 87 for 1 to 124 for 6 in the second rubber was a test of their resolve, one that Joe Root and Chris Woakes passed with colours. The Bridgetown collapse from 219 for 1 to 328 all out should act as a further wake-up call to England’s middle-order. The platform that Hales and Root had built allowed players to go out and be aggressive, but you can be expansive without giving your wicket away cheaply.
Undoubtedly there are far sterner tests to come in 2017, but every day is a learning day, as they say. England’s next white-ball action comes in May with two one-dayers against Ireland, followed by three against South Africa.
Chris Woakes: Man of the series
At £504,140, have the Kolkata Knight Riders bagged themselves a bargain in Chris Woakes?
Paul Farbrace has spoken of how Woakes has made himself an “automatic selection” for England with his recent run of performances. And he is doing so with both bat and ball.
Woakes has taken seven wickets in the series with an economy rate of 3.56 runs an over. And when he isn’t taking wickets, he is consistent, exerts pressure, stifles the run rate, offering England superb control.
When the Champions Trophy comes around, Steven Finn is the most likely candidate to be replaced by one of Jake Ball, David Willey or Mark Wood who are all working their way back form respective injuries. Finn has not had a forgettable series, but with Plunkett and Woakes out-performing him, he has not done enough to force the hand.
Woakes' match-by-match series figures:
Woakes continues to impress with the bat from No.8, too. His highly-impressive 68* alongside Root (90*) navigated England away from choppy waters in the second ODI.
It should come as no surprise, either. His match-winning 95* v Sri Lanka at Trent Bridge was an incandescent indicator of his ability. On that day he shared a 7th-wicket partnership of 138 with Jos Buttler, and 9th-wicket stand of 51* with Plunkett after England had been 82 for 6.
At less than a third of the price the Rising Pune Supergiants coughed up for Ben Stokes, Woakes could prove a snip at the not-insignificant figure of half a million pounds. Knight Riders fans will be watching with eager anticipation.
Hales removes any doubt
If anyone was questioning Alex Hales’ right to walk back into this England XI, they have been delivered a resounding answer. After opting out of the Bangladesh tour, and missing the final ODI and T20I series in India through injury, Hales’ 110 at North Sound - his fifth ODI hundred - was a timely remainder of his ability.
It is Sam Billings the man England must sacrifice to shift Hales back into his opening spot. The stage was set in the first ODI for the Kent keeper to turn a half-century into three figures, a case which may have been too compelling to ignore, even with Alex Hales’ return to fitness. But it was not to be, and Trevor Bayliss has warned that jobs cannot be left half finished.
Billings was visibly furious at himself after clipping Ashley Nurse to Carlos Brathwaite at midwicket, just three deliveries after reaching a composed, second ODI fifty. A golden duck in the second match at North Sound all but ensured that Hales’ opening spot is safe, if it wasn’t already.
Billings has acknowledged the worth in making oneself as dynamic and adaptable as possible, but - although extremely capable - ultimately he is not an opener by trade. Before replacing Hales, Billings had been batting No.7 for England. In the County Championship, he comes in at No.5 for Kent, No.4 in the One-Day Cup and T20 Blast.
If Billings is to find his way back into the side, it is likely to be lower down the order.
At the risk of being lynched and drawn through the streets of Lancashire, how long does explosive potential keep you in the XI? Jos Buttler can win you a game in five overs, but he has had a poor series with 21 runs at 7.00. He performed marginally better in the three-match series against India hitting 52 at 17.33.
I wouldn’t be taking Buttler out of the XI just yet, but how long can a lean run be ignored with like-for-like wicketkeeper batsmen (Bairstow & Billings) sat on the balcony?
1st ODI, North Sound: England 296 for 6 beat West Indies 251 by 45 runs.
2nd ODI, North Sound: West Indies 225 all out lost to England 226 for 6 by four wickets.
3rd ODI: England 328 all out beat West Indies 142 all out by 186 runs.