One of the more important elements of practice matches before big tournaments is that they allow players to do what it says on the tin. England may have felt a trifle short-changed in the first of their two such encounters as part of their final preparations for the World Cup.
There was barely time to warm up before the proceedings were done and dusted. England won by nine wickets with 27.2 overs to spare after bowling out West Indies in 29.3 overs. There would have been time for a beer match, except West Indies wonderfully conveyed the impression that they had already played in one.
While it will have done England no harm to win so impressively, it will not have done them that much good either. None of the five bowlers delivered as many as eight overs, only three of the batsman managed to get to the crease.
There was little scope to experiment which is half the idea of these affairs. England had already rejected the opportunity to use all 15 players in their squad, which is allowed under the regulations (more like non-regulations considering that it makes for a free for all). They preferred to stick to the conventional XI, resting Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad and giving a game to both Chris Jordan and James Tredwell, both of whom have been short of cricket.
This meant that there was no place for the similarly underworked Alex Hales or Gary Ballance. If the former is still not sure that his broken finger would stand up to the rigours of a match in which he had to both field and bat, the latter must be desperate for an innings that does not take place in the nets.
West Indies were lamentable. England took advantage of a bowler’s pitch but its green tinge under a cloudy sky was matched by the urgent waving of the white flag. There was neither application nor gumption to the West Indian batting and the plausible theory of six months ago that they could mount a serious challenge at this World Cup now seems ludicrous.
Before the first over from Chris Woakes was out England had two wickets down in successive balls. Chris Gayle gloved one that lifted down the leg side, Darren Bravo was beaten groping forward and also caught behind.
Another two in two balls saw the end of Dwayne Smith, edging to second slip, and Marlon Samuels, bowled driving down the wrong line. If there was a shot that took the biscuit, it was played by Darren Sammy, slogging aimlessly to mid-on the ball after narrowly escaping against one that lifted at him.
There were five wickets for Woakes, who was always on button, and it was all over in a canter. Moeen Ali had one escape, being caught off a no ball, but otherwise blazed his way to 46 with nine fours, both impressive and fortuitous. Ian Bell, in lovely touch since his arrival in Australia, saw it through. Job done for England but it has no bearing whatever on what is to follow.Reuse content