The Cricketer
Owen Riley Owen Riley


Seven talking points from the second Test...

A New Hope

At the start of last week pen was being put to parchment writing the obituaries of West Indies cricket.

On Saturday, one shot, an impressive, one-legged pull for four to take Shai Hope to 99 had onlookers purring and rushing to make comparisons with West Indies’ former greats. It was a stroke from the past that fills a new generation with hope. A nonchalant, dismissive flick off the hips followed to bring up his maiden Test hundred.

Kraigg Brathwaite and he would go on to share a 246-run stand in the first innings and put on 144 in the second - two mightily impressive partnerships (52.06% of West Indies’ runs) that led their team to a first Test victory on English soil in 17 years.

When Hope reached three figures on Tuesday, he made history by becoming the first man to score centuries in both innings of a first-class match at Headingley.

On the showing of this pairing, chests can be puffed out, collars turned up and heads held high.

Shai Hope celebrates his maiden Test hundred

A Declaration of Independence

Joe Root is his own man, this is his ship and he will decide how close to steer it towards jagged rocks if it means striving for victory.

Alastair Cook was often criticised for being overly conservative with declarations. The Rajkot Test the most recent example, Cook said the decision to delay the declaration was so not to offer “India a sniff” of winning.

At Headingley, on his home turf, Root risked losing to win. A decision that should be applauded not pilloried. 

Joe Root's declaration should be considered a positive move

Stoneman battles to push Ashes case

One Test fifty does not an opener make, but it settles some nerves at the very least. Upon reaching the milestone, Mark Stoneman became the first England opener - other than Alastair Cook - to register a Test fifty this summer.

Cook’s valiant 88 at The Oval and Edgbaston epic won’t be forgotten but the openers have struggled for consistency.

England openers’ scores this summer: 3, 8, 69, 33, 3, 0, 42, 3, 88, 0, 7, 48, 46, 17, 10, 18, 243, 8, 11, 19, 23, 52.

The Surrey opener has been on the receiving end of two jaffas either side of a loose dismissal in the first innings at Headingley; a pinpoint delivery going across the left-hander from Kemar Roach at Edgbaston and a beauty clipping the top of off from Shannon Gabriel.

It was a half-century made under personal pressure to perform, having waited so long for a chance on the Test stage and the Ashes rapidly approaching. Furthermore, with England facing first-innings deficit, the match situation slapped added weight to Stoneman’s shoulders.

He is a seasoned opener, not a makeshift opener, not a greenhorn learning his trade. He battled through a finger dislocation - the sort of grit that will be needed in spades when England roll into Brisbane.

Mark Stoneman hit his maiden Test fifty

Four-day Tests

There are plenty things Test cricket needs to address with a degree immediacy; context beyond ambiguous ranking points, distribution of wealth, growing the game beyond 10 (soon to be 12) Test-playing nations etc.

Reducing matches to four days is not one of them. This one went the distance with every day of it enthralling, every session meandering and meaningful.

One absorbing Test does not paper over ever-widening cracks of the world game, but it should subdue the four-day Test conversation.

Malan takes his chance

Malan’s very short Test career had been drifting, with scores of 1, 10, 18 and 6 against South Africa, but a 65 at Edgbaston and a hard-fought 61 from 186 balls in the second innings at Leeds have vastly improved his chances of going to Australia. Whether or not Malan will be in the XI at Brisbane remains to be seen - depending on the balance England opt for – but the Middlesex man has given himself a fighting chance, showing the sort of application and ballast Root’s team need to sure up the batting order.

Will Malan be in the Ashes squad?

Windies show mettle and malfunction in equal measure

Brilliant as they were, the West Indies victory would have been all the more comprehensive if their fielding hadn’t continued to be utterly farcical.

England were far from perfect, Moeen particularly guilty of dropping a dolly and Alastair Cook missing two slip chances in West Indies’ chase.

Joe Root was put down on eight in the first innings, which cost the visitors 51 runs. The England captain was dropped again in the second innings on 10, which was punished for another 62. Ben Stokes was shelled on nine and then again two short of his century, 91 more runs given up.

England were lucky to get away with it being as close as it was.

Westley’s future will be decided at Lord’s

It’s day one at The Oval, Tom Westley - on his Test debut - has just moved to 16 exclusively in boundaries. He is putting on an exhibition of strokeplay with which Chelmsford’s faithful are already fully acquainted. A fifty in his second Test innings followed. He just looked right.

Of the three new batsmen, Westley has gone from being the most fluent to the most scrambled. He is notoriously strong through the on side, but those leg-side tendencies come fraught with risk. It has been his undoing in four of his seven Test innings. Once can be dismissed as bad luck, a one-off error, four points to something more malicious.

There are shades of James Vince, picture-perfect strokeplay but consistently falling to the same mode of dismissal. Westley has one more Test to dig in and force England’s hand.

Tom Westley has two innings to prove himself before the Ashes