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March 12, 2009
First of all, it has to be said that England’s bowlers put in an almost heroic performance in the final two sessions of the final test yesterday. However, it proved to be too late for them to force a victory that would have seen them draw the series.
West Indies managed to bat out the final session to secure a 1-0 series win, their first in a major test series for five years. This isn’t the main talking point in the aftermath of the match though.
Instead, many have questioned England’s delayed declaration. Andrew Strauss waited until lunch to call time on the England innings, with many believing they should have declared when Matt Prior was out for an aggressive 61.
Had England chosen to end their innings here, they would have set the West Indies are more achievable target of 209. Surely it was worth taking a risk with the series at stake though?
Several former England players agree with this notion, in particular Ian Botham who described the declaration as ‘pathetic’. The Sky Sports commentator then went on to say that the England players have obviously ‘not got long memories of Antigua’.
Botham then went on to claim that England ‘lost the plot’ by failing to declare when prior was dismissed. The former all-rounder then questioned whether Strauss actually wanted to win the game at all.
Other players turned pundits to criticise the declaration were Alec Stewart who believes that England ‘missed a trick’ by not putting the West Indies before lunch and Bob Willis who said that the only way England were going to win was if the ‘West Indies were going for runs’.
Overall, Strauss and co can expect a lot of negative press for their decisions made in this series. Sticking with Ian Bell for the first test was a mistake, selecting a ridiculously unfit Ryan Sidebottom for the fourth test was a mistake and delaying the declaration in this final test was a mistake.
There were others as well though and in reality, England have caused this series defeat themselves. The cricket odds expected them to defeat the West Indies before the tour began, so it has to be disappointing that they have lost.
The most worrying thing though is that they appear to have forgotten how to win a test match. They got within one or two wickets of victory of two occasions, but failed to close it out. How can a team that declared five times in a series not win a test match?!
Next up for England is a home series against the West Indies in May. There is no doubt that cricket betting will have the home side down as favourites for this one and they should win.
Whether this will be enough to build confidence ahead of a much anticipated Ashes series though, remains to be seen.
By Thomas Rooney – A sports writer who blogs about England Cricket