Alastair Cook and Peter Moores need Caribbean triumph to lay ghost of Kevin Pietersen

This tour of the West Indies is as intriguing as that in 2009

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The Independent Online

On the last occasion England pitched up in this particular bit of the Caribbean paradise there was the devil of a hoo-ha about sackings, the parlous state of English cricket and Kevin Pietersen’s part in it. Thankfully, those days are behind us.

Or would be, at any rate, if England had not recently performed with such unerring hopelessness in the World Cup and Pietersen were not still stalking them more than a year after his international career was summarily ended. In many ways, the similarities between 2009 and 2015 are too close for comfort.

Between times during those six years, England have been the No 1 side in the world at both Tests and, for what it is worth, one-day cricket, been Twenty20 world champions and thrice won the Ashes. Unfortunately, those days have gone, if not for ever, then so dramatically that they feel light years away.

This tour of the West Indies is as intriguing as that in 2009. Then Pietersen had recently been deposed as captain, along with Peter Moores as coach. A new duet was in charge, Andrew Strauss as captain and Andy Flower as coach, initially in a temporary capacity, and they took England to a series of glorious achievements. But in the Caribbean at the start of it all, when the tour also began in St Kitts, they lost 1-0 after imploding in the first Test and being unable to claw it back despite two close finishes. Defeat for Moores and Alastair Cook this time is unthinkable.

 

The incoming chairman of the England and Wales Cricket Board, Colin Graves, has already opined that there would need to be an inquiry if England lose. Since Graves is making so many waves before taking office in May, it is entertaining to think what he might do and say once he is officially in charge.

Gone are the days when England arrived in these parts on a wing and prayer and fearing what bodily damage might be inflicted, not to mention the mental scarring of relentless pace. If England are in something of a mess, West Indies have seemed to be in permanent disarray for 10 years, their victories diminished in almost exact proportion to what they once were.

In the 1980s going into the 1990s, they never seemed to lose: now they never seem to win. Such is the perception, but while they struggle elsewhere, they are no pushovers at home. England should win (for the sake of Moores and Cook they must) but it may not be perfectly straightforward. The series may meet the proper demands of Test cricket.

England’s sole cricket before the series begins in Antigua a week today will be two two-day matches at Warner Park, St Kitts. They will, nominally at least, be two-innings affairs, though England hope to play 12 in the first of these today, with an extra bowler.

In the mind’s eye pitches all over the Caribbean are lightning quick and populated by lean, long-limbed bowlers of express pace. In reality, the surfaces for the impending series (and that against Australia to follow) are likely to be slow and demand rigorous attention to detail by batsmen and bowlers alike.

It will be attritional and if both sides perform properly may need most of the five days to reach a finish. England’s immediate problems concern who opens with Cook and whether they should be tempted to use two spinners.

The contenders for the opening berth are the returning Jonathan Trott and the newcomer, Adam Lyth. Trott seems to be the favourite because of his past record, although he has limited experience as an opener.

In 2003 he began his County Championship career with Warwickshire as opener and made a century in his first innings. After three matches, however, he went to the middle order, where he stayed. For one Test in Bangladesh, in 2010, Trott opened because England felt they needed to play an extra spinner.

Otherwise most of his career has been at No 3,  where he performed admirably until Mitchell Johnson severely unhinged him in the first Test of last winter’s Ashes, forcing his departure from the tour. Whatever is said about his recovery – and Trott should be wished nothing but well – England are taking a huge risk.

Lyth might deserve a go more than anything because he gained the selectors’ attention by weight of Championship runs. He scored six Championship hundreds for Yorkshire last summer and started this season with another against MCC in Abu Dhabi.

The spinner will probably be James Tredwell, though Adil Rashid’s perkiness has impressed in the early nets. Rashid’s batting is superior to Tredwell’s and his leg-spin may be more useful in dismissing numbers nine, 10 and 11, who can be so troublesome in Tests these days.

It will all start a week today, the first of 17 Tests in eight months for England, and whatever happens these few days here will be looked back on with great fondness.

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