West Indies v England, 2nd ODI, Antigua March 2, 2014

Bopara and Parry give cause for optimism

When you've been in the slump England have endured any win is gratefully received. Some their batting raised more concerns, but the bowler, fielding and Ravi Bopara's calmness impressed

Croft: A dismal West Indies batting performance

It wasn't pretty, it wasn't without fortune and it wasn't convincing but, like a starving man presented with week-old bread, England are in no position to quibble over the style of any victory.

Going into this game, England had lost 16 of their last 19 games in all formats against Test-playing opposition. They had lost seven of their last nine ODIs and five in a row across the limited-overs formats. They were desperate for a win to inject some confidence into a squad that has, so far, crept tentatively into a new era.

Defeat would have had damaging consequences. Not only would it have sealed the result of the series, but it would have increased the pressure on Ashley Giles, in particular, and risked the morale of the squad just ahead of the World T20.

As Stuart Broad, the captain, admitted afterwards: "We've probably fallen short in the real pressure scenarios in the past year. It would have been a huge setback to lose today, having done some great things. It would have been like slamming your head against a brick wall really.

"We just needed the top order to play us through and take responsibility. We didn't manage to do that, and we had a Champions Trophy final-type wobble in the middle. But we got over the line, and that's the most important thing.

"I would have been hugely disappointed sat here 2-0 down after some of the cricket we've played. On Friday, we played 75% of the cricket, and lost the game.

"To get over the line should give the changing-room a huge amount of confidence and belief - because we've not won two games in a row since July."

Even if the result had gone the other way - and but for an umpiring decision that went against Dwayne Bravo it might have done - there would have been some encouraging aspects to the performance. England's bowling, with their four spinners accounting for eight of West Indies' wickets, was much improved from the first game, while their fielding, already showing the influence of Paul Collingwood, was a key difference between the sides.

The close proximity of the fielders to the bat in the circle - England usually have them on the edge, thereby regularly surrendering quick singles - was classic Collingwood and noticeably increased the pressure on the West Indies batsmen.

Stephen Parry, a veteran of just six first-class games at the age of 28, went some way to justifying his surprise selection with three wickets on a debut that earned him the Man-of-the-Match award. He is not a spinner that is particularly pleasing on the eye and offers little of the traditional skills of flight or dip but, much in the manner that Michael Yardy fulfilled a valuable role for England in the World T20 of 2010, he has something to offer in the shorter formats.

He was admirably composed and, in taking the important wicket of Lendl Simmons the ball after having been hit for six, holding the following delivery back just a fraction and inviting a repeat of the stroke, he demonstrated pleasing confidence and nerve. He will not always find the conditions so helpful or the batsmen so obliging, but the unfazed character bodes well.

But perhaps it was the composure shown by Ravi Bopara that was most heartening. Bopara's talent has never been in question and, in his 101 ODIs, he has shown glimpses of quality that have made his inability to deliver more consistently all the more maddening. All too often, notably in the Champions Trophy final and in the ODI in Adelaide in January, he has appeared to freeze under pressure.

Here, however, he was calmness personified. While Broad was more than a little fortunate - he could have been caught three times before he made 6 and was reprieved on review before he had scored - Bopara knew there was no hurry and did not play a false stroke in the eighth-wicket partnership that took his side to victory. Again, there will be bigger moments in bigger games, but this was an unbeaten 38 worth far more than some of his half-centuries thrashed with the pressure off.

Broad's captaincy is intriguing, too. He appeared noticeably more aggressive than Alastair Cook might have been, utilising two legs slips at one stage and again opening the bowling with a spinner. Indeed, England utilised two part-time spinners in the Powerplay.

Still, victory should not mask the fragility of England's batting for the second game in succession. Bearing in mind the trial against spin anticipated in Bangladesh, their struggles against Sunil Narine, in particular, are a worry. Luke Wright has been horribly exposed in this series and the manner of Jos Buttler's dismissal, desperately uncomfortable trying to evade a bouncer, will have fast bowlers the world over taking notice. He will face many quicker bowlers on many quicker wickets.

It is a situation that does nothing to vindicate the management's decision to dispense with the services of Kevin Pietersen, but it would be disingenuous to suggest that is the only problem. Eoin Morgan has also been sorely missed, while Ian Bell and Cook will return to the first choice ODI side.

It is worth noting, too, that since the ODI series in January, England's No. 3 batsman - a combination of Joe Root, Ben Stokes and Wright - have scored just 91 runs between them in 13 innings; a run of scores that reads: 3, 2, 15, 70, 0, 1 and 0. Suffice it to say, Jonathan Trott has not been effectively replaced.

While the tired pitch - slow, low and, in many ways, utterly unsuited to promoting limited-overs cricket as a form of entertainment - resulted in some desultory cricket - there were only nine fours in the entire West Indies innings - it did provide a good example of what to expect in Bangladesh.

It will be encouraging for them, then, that both Morgan and Alex Hales were able to return to the nets during the game and might play in the deciding game on Wednesday.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • John on March 4, 2014, 6:32 GMT

    On a hard and flat track against batters with real power Parry will go the distance. This is so "England" to pick another containing slow bowler rather than one who can actually flight and turn the ball..and that is the huge problem with having Ashley Giles as a coach and selector. Sad that Swann's retired - he proved that if you actually put some revs on the ball you get flight, dip and spin and you can confuse the world's best.

  • Owen on March 3, 2014, 18:24 GMT

    Yeah that Bopara innings was not cause for optimism. He did exactly what he has done in previous games; plod along in the death overs picking up singles. Normally this loses games and it was only because the total was so low that it was successful this time. If this is the way he is going to play then put him in at 3 or drop him.

  • Peter on March 3, 2014, 17:42 GMT

    Bopara never gives reason to be optimistic. He's got to be the worst England player ever to play 100 games. Perfect for him, he likes to scores one's and two's and finish not out. He thinks about his average first and the team second. What's he going to do when England need him to hit boundaries to win? Nothing, he limp along and make sure he doesn't finish not out.

  • Paulo on March 3, 2014, 17:29 GMT

    Food for thought. Parry's figures were pretty similar to Danny Briggs on ODI debut. 2 for 39 plays 3 for 32. Parry's figures were better, but Briggs was against a more settled batting line-up that are better players of spin on a pitch that spins less than yesterday's (vs Pakistan in UAE). But Parry bowled well nonetheless.

    Not too sure about optimism re Bopara. For once he finished a chase successfully, but after how many failures? Also his England career has been pretty terrible, although he has been asked to do the hokey cokey on a pogo stick (in and out the side, up and down the order). He still has the capacity to play the most abysmal nnings, and does it much more frequently than playing a blinder.

    Don't buy into the notion of a "young team". All 3 debutants over the age of 25. Bopara & Wright have been around for ages without ever really performing. Bresnan has been in decline since his injury.

  • Rajdeep on March 3, 2014, 16:46 GMT

    England fans are too hard on their team. This side is so inexperienced, it will take them a bit of time to adapt.

  • Sean on March 3, 2014, 14:43 GMT

    The test team for SL test series could be 1. Cook 2. Robson (FC ave 42) 3. Bell 4. Root/Ballance (FC ave 52) 5. Moeen Ali (FC ave 38 & 2nd spin option) 6. Stokes 7. Prior 8. Borthwick (FC ave 31 with bat & ball) 9. Broad 10. Anderson 11. Onions - Thats a fair bit of inexperience but that team can bat well down to 8, has 4 pace bowlers + the spinners Borthwick, Ali & maybe Root.

  • James on March 3, 2014, 10:37 GMT

    I'm sorry but Parry looked very ordinary. There were hardly any revolutions on the ball and it was delivered from a flat trajectory. Good batsmen would slaughter that rubbish.

  • ian on March 3, 2014, 10:22 GMT

    It's not fully emerged from the chrysalis, but we are beginning to get something of what the new England set up looks like. It is workmanlike; flair is absent - as is its ability to play quality spin. It has many honest toilers and, on a good day, it can get the job done. It's not very watchable; it is unlikely to attract any more than the core of diehard fans through the gate, especially at the inflated prices the ECB expects cricket-followers to find from their disposable incomes. It is, though, full of good chaps - unlikely to rock the boat as it drifts along. In short, it has several characteristics of the man at the ODI/t20 helm - Ashley Giles. True, Eoin Morgan is missing, but he cannot be expected to supply the wow factor on his own. The new stars (Root, Stokes, Buttler) are beginning to look a little care-battered. Each has lost some gloss. Moeen Ali may yet make the step up successfully. No one knows what Luke Wright is doing in the set up. It's clear that he doesn't belong.

  • Dummy4 on March 3, 2014, 9:05 GMT

    Luke wright is a real mystery, If you see him play domestically he looks a cut above but just doesn't seem to be able to perform for England.

    On a more general note England look at least one proper batsmen short, it seems unlikely that Stokes is going to bowl much on this tour so is he worth his place just as a batsmen.Maybe this is why they called up Bell. Its probably too make to make big changes but personally I would call up Kieswetter, scored a stack full of runs in England domestic T20, has played in the full tournament before and England don't seem to have a reserve wicket keeper

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