The inability of the England batsmen to convert good starts to their innings into something big cost the hosts the first Test match of the series, feels Chris Silverwood. In the first innings, Dominic Sibley was the only one out of the top 8 batsmen to have been dismissed for single figures, and in the second, England lost five quick wickets on the fourth evening to hand the initiative back to the West Indies.
Silverwood said, “There were a few times when we could have grabbed the game by the scruff of the neck. The first innings, we could have capitalised more on that. Probably more relevantly in the second innings when we managed to get ourselves in a good position, then lost wickets in a rush again. Should we have capitalised on that position the game would have been in a different scenario, and they’d have been chasing more runs at the end there, which would have played into our hands.”
Silverwood then justified the omission of Stuart Broad by explaining that the decision of playing Mark Wood was down to the surface of the Ageas Bowl. He did not consider Broad’s TV interview before play on day three, in which he said he was “angry” about being left out, to be a distraction to the side. He said, “The decision was made because of what we felt we needed on this pitch,” Silverwood said. “As Ben [Stokes] did, I stand by the decision. We saw in the game that some of the bowlers that did have an impact [had] pace. [Shannon] Gabriel came in, as did [Alzarri] Joseph. We saw Jofra [Archer] yesterday – he bowled a beautiful opening spell, which is as good as I’ve seen him. Pace did play a part in that so I stand by that decision. I think Stuart handled himself very well during that interview, to be honest. What I did love about it, and subsequently the conversations I’ve had with him, is that passion, that drive is still there and to see that in someone who has done as much in the game as he has, I find very exciting to be honest. Stuart still has a big role to play within this team. And I’ve made that very clear to him.”
England’s defeat continued their habit of losing the opening Test of a series. They have now lost the first match in eight of their last 11 series. Silverwood admitted it was something which has been spoken about and he wants his team to identify and handle the pivotal moments in matches better, such as on the fourth evening when West Indies took five for 30 in eleven overs. He said, “We have to address and it look at how we get out of the blocks a little bit quicker. Part and parcel of that, if we look at this game, is recognising the key situation in a game that it can pivot. Gabriel and Joseph bowled a good spell at us and turned the game on its head. So it’s recognising situations like that and making more of them and making sure that we put the opposition under pressure rather than being put under pressure ourselves. I think if we do that, that’ll go a long way to winning that first Test match of the series.”
Despite their poor record in opening Tests, England have also shown an ability to bounce back quickly, as they did in South Africa. After losing the opening Test in Centurion, they went on to win the next three matches and Silverwood will be looking for a similar reaction from his team this week at Emirates Old Trafford. He said, “We had a good chat in the dressing room afterwards, as you always do you sit down and you look at areas where you missed opportunities here, you’ve built well there. I tend to try and find the positives in everything, how are we going to move forward? South Africa was used as an example of how well we can bounce back. Hopefully we play to our potential and we’ll get in a similar position. But as we’ve seen, we’re going to have to play well. What I don’t know want to do is take any credit away from the West Indies because I thought they played very, very well.”
England ‘s squad underwent a COVID-19 test on Monday morning (July 13) before travelling up to Manchester from Southampton in individual cars. Joe Root, who missed the first Test to be at the birth of his second child, will meet up with the party at Old Trafford on Monday afternoon. England are expected to name a squad for the second Test following training on Tuesday with Root’s return potentially putting Joe Denly’s position at risk, particularly after Zak Crawley played so well to make 76 in England’s second innings at the Ageas Bowl.
Silverwood was all praises for Crawley’s efforts, as he said, “I think he certainly showed maturity and the innings he played was very good. We have some young players in that side that seem to have good heads on their shoulders, and he’s one of them. We’d have all loved to have seen him go on and get up to three figures but what we did was very good and helped us get into the position that we did. That’s what we are looking for. If we can create an environment where these guys can learn and continually improve then we will end up with some very good cricketers on our hands. Zak is improving constantly.”