NASSER HUSSAIN: Leaving out Stuart Broad was a big mistake

NASSER HUSSAIN: Credit to West Indies but leaving out Stuart Broad was a big mistake… it could cost England the series

  • Would England have left out Stuart Broad had this been the first Ashes game?
  • I didn’t like the decision at the time and said during the Test they made an error
  • Can England say they treated West Indies the same way they’d treat Australia? 
  • It makes me think they keep underestimating West Indies every time they play

Hats off to West Indies for a super performance, but I’d like to ask England one question. If this had been the first game of the Ashes, would they have left out Stuart Broad?

That’s not a matter of hindsight. I didn’t like the decision at the time, and I said during the match that they had made a mistake. But can England honestly tell themselves that they have treated West Indies the same way they would have treated Australia?

I don’t believe they can – and it makes me wonder if they’ve made a mistake they keep making against this West Indies side. They underestimated them, despite the Wisden Trophy currently being in possession of Jason Holder.

England’s Stuart Broad acted as the twelfth man during the first Test against West Indies

If Australia had rocked up for the first Test of a series on a cloudy morning in Southampton, and England had won the toss, you’d have no hesitation in throwing the ball to Jimmy Anderson and Broad, and saying: ‘There you go lads, do what’s brought you over 1,050 Test wickets between you.’

Instead, it was as if England couldn’t decide which of their two quicks to leave out. Jofra Archer deserved to come back in after his injury, and Mark Wood didn’t deserve to be dropped after what he did in South Africa. So they picked them both.

But if Broad had been playing, Stokes might well have chosen to bowl on Wednesday morning – and I believe West Indies would have been dismissed cheaply. Without Broad in the side, the decision at the toss becomes 50-50, as we saw on Sunday, when England might have won had they taken their chances. Instead, they’ve gone 1-0 down to West Indies for the second series in a row.

England fast bowler Jofra Archer struck twice before lunch to raise hopes of a day-five victory

The danger now is that England chase their tail and pick the wrong team in Manchester, to make up for the error here. Broad takes his Test wickets there at 28 apiece, but if it’s a typical Old Trafford track – hard and fast – then they may decide they need the extra pace again. They could face another tricky decision.

Make no mistake, though: this was a terrific performance from Holder’s team, and it’s great for world cricket when West Indies are winning Test matches. A combination of Holder as captain and Phil Simmons as coach makes them a dangerous proposition, because there’s so much emphasis on discipline. Good luck to them.

But if you think the pitch is good enough to bat first, then 204 all out simply isn’t up to the mark. I’m afraid Joe Denly now has to miss out at Emirates Old Trafford when Joe Root returns, with Zak Crawley moving up to No 3 after the bright 76 he made in the second innings here. He looks better with every innings he plays.

If Broad had been playing, Ben Stokes might well have chosen to bowl on Wednesday

A top three of Rory Burns, Dom Sibley and Denly just lacks that extra gear. And while we can’t criticise England’s top order for knuckling down after a summer in which they kept hoping Jason Roy’s aggression would work, Crawley offers a different tempo.

That’s no disrespect to Denly, who has been a decent stopgap for England while they look for some stability at the top of the order. But you can’t keep failing to converts your starts at Test level, and not expect the selectors to catch up with you.

I’d also like Stokes to look at the way he batted in this game, and ask himself whether he really needs to manufacture strokes like he did in both innings. In the first, he walked tried to work Holder from outside off stump through the leg side, and edged behind. In the second, he shuffled across his stumps and poked to gully.

Ben is such a good player – the best in this team when Root isn’t there – and has such a good technique, that in my view he just needs to bat normally. On both occasions, he had got into the forties. With no Root there, what England needed was for one of those inning to become a hundred. He opened the door for West Indies, and they walked right in.

Mark Wood didn’t deserve to be dropped after his performance against South Africa

I would say, though, that England bowled really well on the final day, and there were few more encouraging sights than Archer charging in. The ball that dismissed Roston Chase was simply unplayable, and it felt to some of us that his spell was up there with the hostility he produced to Steve Smith at Lord’s last year.

He was superb with the new ball on Sunday too, bowling a fuller length than he had in the first innings, and his level of hostility was breathtaking.

But if you’re trying to defend 200, you can’t be as sloppy as England were on the last day. If Crawley had gathered the ball cleanly, Blackwood would probably have been run out, and Jos Buttler missed a chance down the leg side, though in fairness he hasn’t dropped many during his time as Test keeper.

West Indies deserved their win. I just hope England didn’t take them lightly. They’ve been there before, and it hasn’t ended well.

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