Do England's batsmen deserve criticism? The Cricket Debate

9 July 2020, 20:17 | Updated: 10 July 2020, 11:33

England have endured a difficult opening two days to the first #raisethebat Test against the West Indies, bowled out for 204 in their first innings, but is it fair to criticise their undercooked batsmen?

"With the bowlers all being fresh and injury-free, I wondered whether we'd get a very quick Test match because of that, given batters not getting that time in the middle," said Sky Sports Cricket pundit Mark Butcher.

That was up for debate as Butcher led the discussion on the latest episode of The Cricket Debate, which you can listen to as a podcast in the player above.

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With no cricket possible for four months due to the COVID-19 outbreak, England's players have come into this Test with roughly only a month's training and one three-day, intra-squad warm-up game as preparation.

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"Without trying to make excuses, these guys haven't had much match preparation - same for the bowlers as well," said former England Women cricketer Lydia Greenway.

"As a batter, you like to have time out in the middle leading into a big Test match. The other factor is, the West Indies bowling was phenomenal.

"Their discipline was brilliant - the variety they've got in their attack - and so we have to give them a huge amount of credit.

"The dismissals for England... if you look back two years' ago, we would have seen loose shots, batters getting themselves out, but some of those dismissals [today] can be excused."

Joining Greenway on The Cricket Debate was former West Indies captain Darren Sammy and ex-England all-rounder Dominic Cork, who agreed that the batsmen are likely to struggle more if short of match practice.

"You work hard in county cricket, normally, or through the Tests in the winter, leading into this," said Cork. "It's so hard for players to build up confidence.

"As a bowler, it's a lot easier. The only issue you have is building up the overs in your legs, to have the stamina to get through a day's play and still have the energy and desire to do it the next day.

"These guys are still building up; it's just great to have cricket back. There's going to be some criticism, but we have to look at it and see that these guys have worked their socks off to try and get to a position to be able to play a Test match.

"We've got to accept that there will be some terrible spells and some terrible shots at times but, we have to understand, it's not easy."

Sammy added: "It's much more difficult for a batter to come in off the back of no cricket - that quickly.

"The bowlers might bowl one or two bad overs but they can still keep running in and try to hit the right areas.

"If a batsman makes one mistake, that's it and you're out."

Also discussed on The Cricket Debate:

  • Jason Holder's career-best figures of 6-42
  • Stuart Broad's omission from the England team
  • Are Joe Denly and Jos Buttler's places under threat?
  • England's 24-man training group picked for the ODIs against Ireland

Watch day three of the first #raisethebat Test between England and West Indies live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10.30am on Friday.