STAR PREVIEW: England v West Indies 3rd Test with RYAN SIDEBOTTOM

Hello again! It’s great to be back for the last test with everything still to play for after a great win for England – fingers crossed for a result either way as we head back to Old Trafford.

2nd Test Review

I thought the second test was another great game – the first two test matches have been absolutely brilliant, and a superb reward for the patience cricket fans have shown during lockdown. Credit to the West Indies for coming and taking that step – due to that we’ve had a richly entertaining series to show around the world, and we’ve been able to see two top teams going at each other.

England’s talent and strength in depth shone through last time – we’ve always been notoriously slow starters who improve from the first test to the second, but credit where it’s due, they played really well.

Dom Sibley (pictured below) deserves a huge amount of credit for his brilliant knock – his patience, concentration and technique were instrumental to England’s big first innings score and he played a proper test match knock that brought the best out of Ben Stokes. England have often struggled with poor starts which the middle order have had to rescue – it was nice to see Sibley grind the Windies down and set a platform to boot, whilst also resting our bowlers – and that really had a big effect late on.

It reminds me a lot of Jonathan Trott’s best innings – they allow the middle order to play their natural games and bat around them – and it was probably the foundation for England’s win.

I know this comes with hindsight, but if I was Jason Holder I’d have put England in – yes, conditions were overcast but Old Trafford tends to be a flat, hard pitch and if you can see off the new ball after the first hour – which we did with the fast bowling, but not with Roston Chase – you can cash in, as Sibley and Stokes showed.

It was great to have Stuart Broad back – it was a mistake not to have him for the first test, for whatever reason. For me you play your best bowlers and your best team, regardless of the situation. It was a disappointment for him to be dropped in Southampton, but he showed why he’s such a fine bowler. The likes of Jofra Archer and Sam Curran (who did great things with the new ball, especially in the second innings) can also keep learning from seeing what he does, which is crucial going forward.

I don’t feel that the Windies played badly – there were some good spells of bowling and they made England sweat, but they suffered when the ball got hard and and Sibley had ground them down – but England’s improvement with the bat made the difference.

A Note: Jofra Archer

Players make mistakes, they make wrong decisions – it’s human nature. He paid for it – he missed this test – and whilst he’s a hugely previous talent, he’s still got a lot of progress to make in test cricket when it comes to using his bowling tactically, including his lengths.

It shows that the England team won’t take any rule breaking or rubbish, and rightly so, but he’ll bounce back and want to do his very best going forward – so I think we should move on, and making too much of this going forward will not help anybody.

England v West Indies
3rd #Raisethebat test
Old Trafford Cricket Ground, Greater Manchester
Friday 25th July
Live from 10:30am on Sky Sports Cricket HD & Test Match Special

3rd Test

I expect England to be just slightly too strong, back at Old Trafford this week. The momentum they’ve gained from the second test will be very important and now a number of their players have confidence with the bat following big scores in the first two matches. Ben Stokes can lead the line again but that knock was hugely important for Dom Sibley and Joe Root should benefit from his outing too.

I worry about the batting for Windies – especially with Stuart Broad back, and also Jimmy Anderson potentially coming into the line-up, which would be a much stiffer test with the bat then they’ve faced so far.

Jason Holder’s had a brilliant series, and I like the 10/1 with that he can score 30 or more runs and take three or more wickets. Holder was brilliant in the first test with the ball (6-42 in the first innings) and he scored a handy 35 in the second innings of the last test. Batting towards the tail gives him protection from the new ball in the innings and we’ve seen the middle order play well so far for the Windies.

Things haven’t come together for Ollie Pope, but he’s a class act and I still fancy him to have a big impact. The 14/1 about him being man of the match with is a tempting price if he can find his batting form, and we’ve seen that you can score big runs at Old Trafford already, especially down the order.

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