Cricket Corner: West Indies have Hope but England don’t, Test matches return

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Cricket Corner: West Indies have Hope but England don’t, Test matches return

Shai Hope scored his 16th ODI ton against England on Sunday
Shai Hope scored his 16th ODI ton against England on SundayProfimedia
In this weekly feature, Flashscore's Pat Dempsey brings together the leading talking points from the increasingly sprawling universe of the world's second-most watched sport.

In a nod to the longest form of the game - Test cricket - the article is broken into three sections to mirror the main intervals in a day’s play: Lunch - the main course; Tea - something extra; and Stumps (the end of play) - something to ponder over a few drinks at the bar.

Lunch - Windies still have Hope

The West Indies returned to action over the weekend after spectacularly missing out on the recent World Cup in India. England have travelled to the Caribbean for three one-day internationals (ODIs) and five Twenty20 internationals (T20Is). There’s been a long time for the Windies to lick their wounds and ponder their recent failures. Turning out a freshened-up side, they were impressive in chasing down a sizeable total to beat England in the first match in Antigua.

The stand-out performer was captain and keeper Shai Hope who scored 109(83) not out to lead the chase. Emerging talent Alick Athanaze impressed opening the batting and allrounder Romario Shepherd plundered 48 in the latter overs to help the hosts win what looked like a lost match.

Gone from the squad are experienced heads Jason Holder and Nicholas Pooran - both are expected to rejoin the team for the T20 series. Kyle Mayers and Akeal Hosein are also not invovled. Unsurprisingly, all four are currently playing in the thoroughly depressing but no doubt lucrative Abu Dhabi T10 along with former West Indies white-ball greats Andre Russell and Sunil Narine.

For a long time now, the big question for the Windies has been: How can they get all their talent turning up to internationals? The upcoming T20Is will provide some further clues as to who is committed to the 20-over World Cup they are hosting next year. As for ODIs, the fulcrum of the side is now undoubtedly Hope.

And thank God they have Hope, they’ll be saying. One of the best ODI batters in recent years, he has now scored 16 tons in the format and moved passed the 5000-run mark against England. Perhaps the most interesting thing about Hope’s career is just how specialised he appears to be as a 50-over batter. His T20 and Test records aren’t very impressive but in ODIs, he’s simply outstanding.

Tea - England still searching for hope

In the gloom of their World Cup disaster, England selected a new-look squad for their Caribbean jaunt in the hope of… well, finding some hope for themselves in the 50-over format particularly. In came Test regulars Zak Crawley and Ben Duckett along with rising stars Will Jacks and Rehan Ahmed. Many of the experienced heads from the World Cup campaign have not been included aside from captain Jos Buttler, who has stayed on for this series.

Buttler desperately needs to find some runs on this tour so maybe he can ask Sam Curran for some. The baby-faced allrounder returned bowling figures of 0/98 off his 9.5 overs in the first encounter - the worst for an Englishman in an ODI ever. I guess the white-ball reset isn’t off to the best start…

The first match may not have provided much encouragement for England fans but let’s get one thing straight - they still have an incredible pool of talent to draw from. However, they clearly need some time to regain the spark that led them to be, arguably, the best white-ball side from the period spanning their ODI World Cup win in 2019 through to their T20 World Cup triumph in 2022.

Where did it all go wrong for England? It’s really hard to say. On paper, they looked like one of the strongest teams going into the recent World Cup and were widely regarded as the next-best behind the hosts. But it wasn’t to be and obviously, the first ODI in the Caribbean didn’t go to plan either. There is still time to turn the ship around, though, and there is no better time to start than in the second match - which is later today also in Antigua. After the third in Barbados, it’ll be time to tinker with the T20 team again. On the horizon, the not-so-small matter of a Test series in India in January/February.

Stumps - Test cricket returns

Speaking of Test cricket, the 2023–2025 World Test Championship is back in full swing now with New Zealand currently playing a two-match series in Bangladesh. The first Test went the way of the hosts, guided principally by the left arm of Taijul Islam. The spinner took 10 wickets in the match as Bangladesh won by 150 runs.

Bangladesh have never beaten the Black Caps in a Test series but at stumps on day one of the second Test, they are in a mighty good position to do so. After the hosts were bowled out for 172, New Zealand went into the sheds at 55/5. Bangladesh have only ever won 19 Tests and less than a dozen series. This would be their greatest scalp if they can claim victory in Mirpur.

New Zealand have a strong squad for the series and the biggest talking point going into the first Test was the non-selection of World Cup breakout star Rachin Ravindra. As a batter in incredible form and one who bowls more than handy spin, Ravindra appeared nailed on for a spot in the XI but was overlooked. So was Mitchell Santner in the first Test as the selectors opted for allrounder Glenn Phillips plus two frontline spinners.

Santner was selected for the second Test but Ravindra was left out again. Jack-of-all-trades Phillips, it must be said, has been very useful in just his second and third Tests, collecting five wickets in Sylhet and three on day one in Mirpur.

If you’re getting that Test cricket buzz back, there’s plenty more on the way too. Pakistan, under the new leadership of Shan Masood, are in Australia and begin a three-match series in Perth on the 14th of December. India, before hosting England, travel to South Africa. After duel white-ball series, they will play two Tests, starting on Boxing Day. All I want for Christmas is… tons and tons of cricket!

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