West Indies v England, 3rd ODI, Antigua March 6, 2014

England spring shoots of regrowth

Victory in a short and, at times, low quality one-day series should not be over-hyped but all recoveries have to start somewhere and England's may just have begun in Antigua

Croft: Fielding first was a mistake by West Indies

The road from Durham to North Sound has been long and has claimed several casualties. But, after a miserable and momentous winter, Antigua may just have witnessed the first signs of recovery from England.

In the seven months since they clinched the Ashes in Durham, England have lost the coach, the spinner and the middle-order batsman who did so much to achieve their period of relative success. They have had to abandon their long-held plans and begin again with fresh faces and lower expectations. They are at the start of a journey that may be hard and will not always be pretty.

But they have, at last, won their first series since that day in Durham. Not only that, but they have come from behind and won two games in a row for the first time since September. The harsh might point out that they have hardly won one in a row since September.

But it was not just the result that was significant here. It was the architects of the result.

For this was a victory forged by those young men who have been identified as the future of this side: Jos Buttler, Joe Root and Moeen Ali, among them. All three registered their highest ODI scores, all three demonstrated the class that will surely win bigger games on bigger stages and all three have their best years ahead of them. On such men, will England's new team will build its foundations.

Root, with a century of class and composure, displayed not just his quality but a toughness and bravery that the boyish exterior could easily conceal.

He sustained a nasty blow to his right thumb off the bowling of Ravi Rampaul when he had scored just 1 and, when rain took the players off the pitch a few minutes later, was advised to retire hurt and allow Eoin Morgan to bat in his place. But he insisted on continuing and, with the pain forcing him to limit his game, deflected and nudged his way to a maiden ODI century.

In the short-term, he may well be proved unavailable for the World Twenty20 after an X-ray in Antigua on Thursday morning, but in the long-term he surely has a bright future at international level.

"One thing that Joe wouldn't mention is that his was an incredibly brave knock today," Stuart Broad said afterwards. "His thumb was very ugly and Eoin was going to go out after the rain break, but then two minutes before the resumption, Joe wacked his helmet on and stormed out. It was clear for everyone to see the discomfort he was in.

"That is the sort of commitment and desire you want people to have in playing for England. We've tried to make a big point of that within this squad about how much it means to play for England and how it must not be taken for granted.

"Here we got a real-life example of someone putting themselves through the pain barrier and showing that level of desire. And you saw the passion he showed when he reached a 100. That's the sort of thing that will help England going forward."

Buttler was equally impressive. While known for his outrageous invention and strength, here he also showed admirable restraint and composure. After 11 balls he had scored only 1 and looked less than confident against the wiles of Sunil Narine.

But he retained his calm, built his innings and, towards the end, unleashed the shots of power and ingenuity that will surely become familiar over the next few years. Just as impressively, he did so against the bowling of Narine and Dwayne Bravo that had previously caused him such difficulty. Such skill, such character and such ability to learn quickly bodes well.

Ben Stokes contributed, too. While he again failed with the bat - England's No. 3 position has now contributed 91 runs in eight ODI innings since Jonathan Trott's departure - he took one fine catch and showed wonderful commitment in diving forwards to attempt another.

Some perspective needs to be maintained. England have still only won only four of their last 11 ODIs. They have still lost 16 of their last 21 games in all formats against Test-playing opposition. This was still their first ODI series win since they left New Zealand a year ago.

Nor was this a particularly high-quality series. It contained some poor death bowling and a batting collapse from England in the first ODI and some poor batting from West Indies in all three games. Both teams will face sterner opposition in higher-pressure situations.

There are clear areas of improvement required, too. England's reluctance - or inability - to bowl yorkers is a significant weakness (Hawkeye suggests they delivered three in the West Indies innings here) and will continue to hurt them. The preferred policy, at present, is to deliver bouncers of various speeds and hope for the batsmen to make an error. It is like shopping in Harrod's. It was telling that when Bresnan did, at last, deliver a yorker, it ended Denesh Ramdin's outstanding innings. "We could have bowled a few more," Broad admitted afterwards.

But the mood of the England squad has been notably lighter on this trip. With young faces replacing the tired and in some cases cynical ones of recent times, there is a heightened sense of enjoyment and purpose that has been reflected in the much-improved fielding performances. That old adage about the fielding reflecting the mood of the side so often rings true.

Root and Buttler and Moeen and Stokes are all raw at this level. There will be days, as they learn their trade, that they make mistakes and England fail. The World T20 surely comes too soon in the rebuilding process.

But, after a grim winter that has ended the careers of huge figures in England cricket, such players represent hope and progress. And at the end of a winter that has at times been hopeless, such qualities are worth a great deal. Spring is on its way.

George Dobell is a senior correspondent at ESPNcricinfo

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Lee on March 8, 2014, 16:48 GMT

    Root vs Ramdin? I think the fact that he was on the winning side, and that he scored it with a broken thumb, tips that Joe Root's way.

  • Alexei on March 7, 2014, 6:50 GMT

    I have a question for everyone here, whose innings was better considering all things: Ramdin's 128 or Root's 107 ?

  • Paulo on March 6, 2014, 14:01 GMT

    @Basingrad also " you sound like someone who was just waiting for Stokes to fail in order to bolster the argument for your preconceptions about him" not only is that not true, but also if Stokes had played better, his stats and performances wouldn't fit the "preconceptions" of him being a bit-and-pieces player

    Also "He is young and raw but he is not bits and pieces. Bits and pieces players are players that are clearly limited in one or both disciplines, not ones with immense talent in both but upon whom far too much expectation is placed too early."- does this mean you think Stokes is "immensely talented". Surely an "immensely talented" cricketer would put up a better performance than Stokes has done?

    Also "wrong to expect his bowling to be up to scratch in ODIs when he is yet to gain sufficient control" - but if he's "immensely talented" he'd at least be able to provide control.

  • Paulo on March 6, 2014, 13:49 GMT

    @Basingrad I apologise if I came across that way. I like Stokes and his fight, but surely you can't deny that both his stats and his performances prove him to be a bits-and-pieces player. I'm sure he could develop into a fine allrounder, but he is certainly not there yet.

    As for Woakes, I think he deserves a go in test cricket. More so than Stokes, given that Woakes marginally outperformed him last season in the championship and if Stokes was selected due to suiting the Aussie conditions, surely Woakes should play in England given he has been typecasted as a "green-top bowler" (unfairly imo given he bowls at Edgbaston). Woakes also performed well for the Lions recently. Woakes provides more control than Stokes with the ball, and would be more consistent with the bat, but Stokes is more likely to take wickets, he also bowls quicker and is more likely to play a flashy match-winning innings.

  • Graham on March 6, 2014, 12:51 GMT

    @CodandChips - you sound like someone who was just waiting for Stokes to fail in order to bolster the argument for your preconceptions about him. This is a man who scored the only England ton of the Ashes, in his 2nd Test, and took a stack of wickets 2 Tests later. He is young and raw but he is not bits and pieces. Bits and pieces players are players that are clearly limited in one or both disciplines, not ones with immense talent in both but upon whom far too much expectation is placed too early. England are wrong to bat him at 3 - he is totally unused and unsuited to it - and also wrong to expect his bowling to be up to scratch in ODIs when he is yet to gain sufficient control.

    In Stokes and Woakes, England are lucky to have the two of the most promising young all-rounders in world cricket. We don't need people like you calling them bits and pieces like they were the new Adam Hollioake.

  • Zubair on March 6, 2014, 11:55 GMT

    Fair article.

    +'s Rather than relying on the matchwinners that were, the performances of some of the debutants have contributed to the series win. The new men, Lumb and Ali complement each other with the former hitting the ground running and the latter pacing his innings more; Buttler has been a great addition as WK given his batting ability and temperament. Root needs to be consistently converting starts into 100s more than occasionally.

    -'s No3, 4 and 5 have been disappointing this series (Wright, Stokes, Morgan) Bopara was missing y'day with the bat. Bowling: Bresnan is not cutting it at this level. It was frustrating to see him continually bowl short. More yorkers at death/powerplays. Give Ali more overs.

    My XI: Lumbs, Ali, Taylor, SD Robson, Root, Morgan, Buttler, Woakes, Broad, Onions, Tredwell, One more pacer/spinner depending on conditions. Some players may be playing out of place but they're good enough.

  • Srenigarajan on March 6, 2014, 11:17 GMT

    Joe Root scoring a hundred against poor WI and English media talks about future !!! OMG !!! Atleast for this sake of these kind of talking ppl English must lose !!!

  • Paulo on March 6, 2014, 9:54 GMT

    Need to be careful regarding Stokes. His ODI stats are awful, and didn't he describe his own list A game for Durham as awful? His general performances for England imo have showed him up to be the bits-and-pieces player many people thought he was.

    Hopefully this hundred means that Root's confidence has returned. People seem to forget that he averages slightly more than both Cook and Bell, although with similar strike rate. Also don't forget that he started off his ODI career brilliantly, with high average and strike rate, before 2 series against Australia completely battered both statistics. I would have him in the top 3, because he provides stability to bat through, it's where he learnt his game, and he can raise his strike rate when needed. Remember also his 90 not out in a T20I.

    Ali was underbowled imo in all 3 matches. His batting was ok, his sloppy dismissals in all 3 matches irritating. His batting reminds me of Trott. A slow starter who raises his strike rate as he bats.

  • Paulo on March 6, 2014, 9:46 GMT

    @SagirParkar you're missing the point. The doom and gloom was about the need for youngsters to step up, and because England kept losing games they should have won. Remember the 2 ODIs in Australia we should have won but somehow managed to lose, and of course the first ODI this series. This article just suggests that the potential is there. In fact this article is still very critical, and rightly so. The tone of this article is spot-on, as you would expect from Dobell. "Some perspective needs to be maintained" and "There are clear areas of improvement required, too" show that he knows what he is talking about.

    Buttler showed his willingness to bat through, although he needs to improve chasing in my opinion. His keeping certainly has improved, but is still not the finished article. I certainly hope he is not fast tracked into the test side, because I doubt he is ready yet as a batsman or a keeper, and so it might knock his confidence. He should develop his white ball game for now.

  • Jackie on March 6, 2014, 9:41 GMT

    Spring is certainly on its way. But let's spare the garlands before their time. Moeen Ali has done OK but it would be hard to say he is England's future. That may be or not. Joe Root has certainly made a comeback after a dire spell and that is very welcome. As Bell said on these pages, it is how you fight back that is important, that makes an England player. Because low spells will always be there in the very exposed international arena. Buttler certainly needs to learn to play himself in. If he does that he will be a very fine player. But there ARE others with promise who have been overlooked unfairly like James Taylor. I'm sure he isn't the only one. Let's not claim a future either for Stokes on the basis of a good catch!! He has looked very wobbly recently. We don't want any more one innings wonders. Please.

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