Joe Root urges England to seize opportunity and end long and painful run by beating West Indies
They have stopped the Ashes rot and seen the odd green shoot of recovery start to grow from the dirt of two graveyard pitches. Now it is time for England to win.
All the hard work over 10 gruelling days in Antigua and Barbados and all the talk of ‘honest’ conversations and a better team culture will count for little if England lose or even draw again in the final Test against, to coin a phrase, a mediocre West Indies.
A run of just one win in 16 is not good enough for any England Test side, even one emerging from the horror show of the Ashes and, whether they will admit it or not, treating this series in the Caribbean as a development tour.
Pressure is on England and captain Joe Root to beat West Indies in the Test series decider
‘Clearly it’s what we’re here for,’ said England captain Joe Root when asked how pressing was his need to see England repeat their victory in the last Test that was played in Grenada seven years ago. ‘The one thing you never want is for a side to forget how to win, but if we keep doing what we have been so far it won’t take long.
‘I think we’ve been playing some really good cricket here and we’ve been getting better as the series has gone on. This is an opportunity now to take that progression further and put it into what counts – winning Test matches.’
That quest suffered a setback yesterday when it became clear Ollie Robinson will not be fit to play after all and will miss the whole series with what started out as a back spasm in the warm-up in Antigua.
It is a blow for a bowler England hoped would be their spearhead here and raises question marks over whether they can fully trust a gifted cricketer still needing to prove he can remain fit enough to play at the highest level.
Bowler Ollie Robinson has been ruled out of the final Test with a persistent back injury
‘It’s just as frustrating for him as it is for me,’ said Root. ‘Ollie is working very hard but there’s something that’s nagging away at him and he’s just got to keep doing what he’s doing and trust in time he’s going to get himself back.’
It is particularly galling for Robinson as there was the welcome sight yesterday of an even covering of grass on the St George’s pitch. We are not exactly talking Trent Bridge in April here but after those dead as a dodo surfaces in Antigua and Barbados it’s a start.
What it does mean is there will be no debut for Matt Parkinson as a second spinner but, frankly, if he was not going to play at the Kensington Oval where there was turn from the start he was never going to play here.
It seems there are still reservations within the England camp over whether the Lancastrian is good enough for Test cricket but if that’s the case there seems little point in taking him around the world as a perennial reserve.
England bowler Craig Overton is ready to return after missing the second Test with exhaustion
They could have at least had a look at him in this series but now it is too late and England will probably be in the same position with Parkinson next winter in Pakistan.
Robinson’s setback in training on Tuesday means reports of Chris Woakes demise as a bowler in overseas conditions have been greatly exaggerated. Despite two wickets at 86 apiece in this series one of the most popular members of the side survives and takes the new ball again with Craig Overton, back after missing the second Test with exhaustion.
‘Craig’s ready to play,’ said Root. ‘He’s been knocking the door down over a long period of time and has never let us down. He’s a really good all-round package.’
A glance at the scorecard from that last match on the Spice Island in 2015 – remembered mostly for Marlon Samuels saluting Ben Stokes – reveals that a certain Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad took 11 wickets between them. Do you wish you could throw the ball to either of them today, Joe?
‘On the wickets we’ve had it would have been nice to throw the ball to Mark Wood occasionally,’ said the England captain, who made a century here, as he has done in the first two Tests of this series, in 2015. ‘That extra bit of pace would have served us well. But we’ll see what we get this week so maybe ask me that question after the game.’
It seems there are still reservations within the England camp over leg-spinner Matt Parkinson
The end of this tour, of course, will see another moment of reckoning when this ‘interim’ period in England’s Test history runs out and Andrew Strauss and Paul Collingwood will hand over to a new managing director and head coach.
Another series without success would seemingly raise more question marks over Root’s captaincy but there still does not seem to be an appetite for a change of leadership yet, even though ECB executives are conspicuous by their absence here.
‘I don’t think there’s any added pressure on me,’ said Root about the arrival of a new head coach. ‘I think I’m the right man to take this team forward but if the head coach comes in and feels differently that’s fine, it’s his decision.
‘While I’m in this position I’ll do everything I can to make this team as good as I possibly can. And if in time I’m no longer in this position I’ll still do everything I can to help this team and try to take us to being the best side in the world. That will never change.’
What has to change is England’s long, painful run without a victory. Starting now.
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