West Indies vs England third Test: Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler put tourists in promising position on day one

9 Feb

Ben Stokes overcame injury and a brief trip to the pavilion as unbeaten half-centuries from him and Jos Buttler finally gave England something to cheer about against the West Indies.

Seeking to avert a 3-0 whitewash in St Lucia, the tourists saw a revamped top order buckle in devastating fashion, reduced to 107 for four on the first afternoon, before the middle-order pair took the score to 231 without additional loss.

Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes celebrate England’s resurgence in St Lucia

Stokes had to pass a late fitness test to even make the XI, after struggling with a badly bruised heel, and initiated the defiant fightback which unfolded in the evening session. His work appeared to be done on 52 when Alzarri Joseph clung to a fine return catch but replays showed the seamer overstepping and Stokes (62 not out) was summoned back to the crease having already left the field of play.

Buttler, dropped on nought earlier, but turned his luck into a responsible knock worth 67no.

England had been inserted on a pitch billed as the quickest in the Caribbean and, though that proved a red herring, Keaton Jennings’ recall just one game after being axed still ended in failure.

The Lancashire opener was palpably out of form as he scraped together eight runs. He could have been out twice in the same Kemar Roach over for just three, surviving a sound lbw appeal that the Windies declined to refer and then relying on Roston Chase’s bungled attempt to hold a thick edge.

Stokes survived a scare to pull through for England

Former England captain Nasser Hussain described the innings as “cruel watching” on television and it ended in the expected manner, nicking off after feeling for Keemo Paul’s first ball of the match.

Rory Burns (29) and Joe Denly (20) have points of their own to prove and had a handful of awkward moments on the way to a lunch score of 46 for one. Denly went particularly close, gloving Shannon Gabriel behind but just letting go of the bat first.

England were outplayed throughout the afternoon session, coughing up three wickets for 68 runs. Gabriel set the tone with a fast, hostile and accurate spell but it was Paul’s introduction which made things happen for the second time.

He went round the wicket and wide on the crease at Burns, who was struck on the pad looking for his favoured whip to leg. Umpire Kumar Dharmasena was not persuaded by the appeal, but would have cringed when DRS showed the ball flattening middle stump.

Denly walks off after having the stumps taken out of the ground

Six balls later it was Denly’s turn to fall lbw, bested for pace by Gabriel to leave his side 69 for three.

That left Joe Root and Buttler at the crease, but the England captain and his deputy both found themselves beaten on nought. Root had a couple of wafts but Buttler was luckier, following a Gabriel outswinger that should have been taken at second or third slip but was pawed to the ropes instead.

Root began to settle for the first time in three Tests, a crisp cover drive and a back cut coming out of the middle, but failed to reach tea. Drawn out by a shorter, wider ball from Joseph he failed to move his feet and nicked softly to Shane Dowrich.

Stokes had just six when he survived a tight lbw in the opening seconds of the final session and responded by upping the ante. Although careful not to play rashly he was unforgiving to anything loose.

One four was thumped straight down the ground, a second slashed behind square and another pounded past cover. When a pull brought up the 50 stand, he had been responsible for 41 of the runs.

The flurry of activity drew Buttler out of his shell too, most pleasingly with an authoritative swivel pull off Joseph, and the duo put on 86 before Stokes’ reprieve. Joseph deserved more for his sharp handiwork but was guilty of an unforced, costly error in footwork.

Buttler topped up his score during a tame mini-session before stumps, as England put together their longest innings of the tour.

England cricket exclusive: Kevin Pietersen backs move to drop Stuart Broad, says Keaton Jennings ‘cannot bat’, and praises Alastair Cook

13 Sep

Kevin Pietersen spoke exclusively to talkSPORT on Thursday.

The former cricket star gave his thoughts on who should open the batting for England following Alastair Cook’s retirement, dismissing Keaton Jennings’ credentials with a brutal put-down.

Pietersen and Broad were once England teammates

He also welcomed reports Stuart Broad will be left out of the squad for the upcoming tour of Sri Lanka, claiming he should have been axed a year ago, while he had some kind things to say about Cook despite their fall-out over the end of his own international career.

Here’s what he had to say to Adrian Durham and Darren Gough on Drivetime…

Who should open the batting for England in Sri Lanka?

“It is brilliant that Rory Burns is predicted to go on the tour of Sri Lanka. That is going to be wonderful.

“Jennings can’t bat, I’m sorry. They are going to have to find somebody else. Cook is a big loss. I know he has been wishy-washy over the last couple of months but he finished on a fairy tale ending, which is brilliant for him but to replace that kind of guy at the top of the order, it is going to be difficult.

Mark Stoneman and Mason Crane named in England squad to face West Indies, with Keaton Jennings dropped
Kevin Pietersen is no fan of Keaton Jennings

“I just don’t see county cricket producing Test cricketers at the moment. The issue is deep-rooted.

“All the best players in the world now are not playing county cricket. They are earning their cash in franchise cricket. Therefore, the standard of county cricket isn’t great, the standard of county batsmen is poor, and it is causing a massive issue in cabs on the rank for batting places.

“I’m not a massive fan of Vince, if I’m honest. He had his chances. I watched him play down under last year. He played nicely, but I just didn’t like the way he went about his business on a couple of occasions when the ball started to bounce. For the tour of South Africa next year, the ball will bounce.

“I like Jason Roy. He has got oomph, he has got guts, he has got runs at the top of the order in Australia. He scored that brilliant 180 at the MCG. It is about how guys score their runs and what their personalities are like. I would be all for Roy at the top of the order with Rory Burns.

“I don’t think Moeen Ali is a number three. He wasn’t playing his natural game [against India], he is more free-flowing down the order.

On Alastair Cook’s international retirement:

Cook enjoyed a fairy tale ending to his international career

“I think he is tired. Goodness, he has played 160 Test matches. I played 100-and-something Test matches and you get incredibly tired and it is actually not the batting that gets you down, it is the monotony of the dressing room, being on the road all the time, the warm-ups, the fitness testing, all the nonsense around the set-up which you have to do.

“Technology has taken over and I’m sure these guys have to be monitored 24/7 in terms of what they are eating, what they are drinking, how far they are running. The monotony of all that stuff can break a person down mentally and after 160 Test matches, he must have been completely broken.”

On reports Stuart Broad will be dropped for the tour of Sri Lanka:

“I would have dropped him last winter. He doesn’t perform that well away from home. He had one good Ashes series and what he delivered for England in the big Ashes series last year was hopeless. I’ve been on tours of the sub-continent, he doesn’t like touring the sub-continent so it wouldn’t surprise me and it would be a very good move if they dropped him.”

KP called for Broad to be dropped

Is James Anderson England’s best ever cricketer?

“I wouldn’t say he is the very best just because he has bowled most of his overs in England with the Duke ball and if you want to be a fast bowler anywhere it is with the Duke ball in England.

“I talked about Alastair Cook the other day saying he deserves the fairy-tale ending. He has played 160 Test matches and has had to face a brand new Duke cricket ball against some of the best bowlers in the world for 12 years. He deserves that fairy-tale ending. Jimmy Anderson, on the flipside, a wonderful bowler, he is one of the best and facing him in the nets was an absolute nightmare. His wrist position, the way he swung the ball, he is wonderful. Is he the best? I don’t know.

“Best are the guys that did well in the sub-continent, did well in Australia. I think that is the mark of the best. But he is right up there, his numbers prove that.”

Kevin Pietersen spoke to talkSPORT following the news we have won the exclusive radio rights to England’s series in South Africa in 2019/20. You can listen to the full interview above.