Test cricket, as you know, is called that for a reason. This is the ultimate test for gamers. And it can also be quite a test for the simple spectator. Imagine the scene: you’re saving up for years to follow England on tour. The Caribbean in March! Trip of a lifetime! And then you find out you’ve booked for five days of boredom.
After three days of this match, there were 13 wickets. At this rate, it would take six more days to get closer to a result. While testing elsewhere often ends early, gardeners in the West Indies are determined to bring the draw back. In Antigua it was a reasonably tense game, with a result still possible at the start of the final session. In Barbados, we will be lucky to get close.
It’s not just gardeners. The West Indies mostly hit like in 1959, Alex Lees did the same for England, and even the usually fluid Joe Root only found the limit once every 22 balls. Dan Lawrence and Ben Stokes went three times faster than that and deserve medals for it. But on the pitch, England have been almost as passive as the West Indies with the bat. Root rolled Jack Leach for hours, doing the same thing, expecting a different outcome. After throwing Jofra Archer and Mark Wood into the ground, he’s now working on Leach – who as a spinner is better able to cope, but it made no sense to give him the new ball as he was knocked out and that there were three specialist tailors jostling each other.
As captain, Root remains superb at one aspect of the job (leading from the front), good at another (being an ambassador) and hopeless in the rest: picking the team, reading the terrain, having a plan, having a background to plan, get things done, run the show. A strong captain is always one step ahead, but Root was so stupid with his bowling changes yesterday that some OBOers had time to figure out what was needed, draft an email, wait for us, the writers, scouring the inbox, and still be half an hour before the game.
Jos Buttler has criticized his poor Ashes with the bat, but without his keen eye and level head, Root even struggles with critics. Looking at England yesterday, you would never have known Root had led them in more Tests than anyone else in their history.
That said, hope is eternal, and I’ll be thrilled if it comes out today and makes that opinion silly. The game starts at 2 p.m. GMT: see you soon.