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England's best not enough on flat pitch

James Anderson produced an edge from Denesh Ramdin but it shot past gully Getty Images

Hot, weary and frustrated, England hardly seemed in the mood to celebrate James Anderson's achievement in becoming his nation's leading Test wicket-taker.

Kept in the field for 129.4 overs, they knew they had not only failed to take a chance to go ahead in the series, but that they only had a three-day turnaround before they have to do it all again. For a team whose captain and coach are, rightly or wrongly, under such scrutiny, the sense of frustration will be magnified. They remain without a Test win overseas since Kolkata at the end of 2012.

It would not be fair to say that England searched for excuses for their failure to take more than five wickets on the final day. It is true that they pointed out that the pitch was unusually flat - "You could start another Test on that wicket and it would last another five days," was Alastair Cook's blunt assessment - and that the balls are offering little reverse, but their opposite numbers in West Indies' team said pretty much the same thing. It really was a painfully slow wicket by the end.

And England did not, by any means, bowl poorly. Ben Stokes bowled far better than his match figures suggested and there were a couple of spells from Chris Jordan - who bowled the fastest delivery of the match (91.8mph) - which promised good things for the future.

There was no lack of effort or invention, either. England tried innovative fields, experimented with the ball, declared plenty early enough and, though there were a couple of tough half-chances, did not miss a clear-cut opportunity. Jason Holder, in particular, was deeply impressive and deserves much credit.

But there is no avoiding the fact that England looked toothless for long sessions of the final day. And they looked toothless against a side with a modest battling line-up that is currently ranked No. 8. Life will become no easier for England as the year progresses.

James Tredwell had, in many ways, a decent game. He hardly bowled a poor ball, he guaranteed his captain control and, in the first innings, he claimed four wickets through some clever, patient bowling.

But the primary job of a spinner is to threaten in the fourth innings and this he generally failed to do.

Tredwell might be something of an oddity: a spinner who is more useful in the first innings of a match. With little spin to work with, he is adept at maintaining control and tricking batsmen trying to attack with subtle changes of pace and flight.

But given some footholes and a match to win and he appears to lack the weapons. There were times when Joe Root looked more dangerous. It would be a surprise if Moeen Ali, with his extra pace, does not replace Tredwell for the second Test.

It was probably fitting that Anderson should break Sir Ian Botham's record on such a docile pitch.

Anderson has been at the heart of just about everything good that has happened in England's Test cricket for a decade: Ashes wins home and away, a Test series victory in India and a brief moment at No. 1 in the ICC rankings.

But increasingly, England are asking too much of him. Increasingly, he is the man thrown the ball when all plans have failed and asked to use his tricks - his swing, his cutters, his disguises and his control - to engineer a breakthrough.

Of course, Cook threw him the ball in the dying moments in Antigua. Of course, Anderson bowled more overs than any other seamer involved in the match. Of course, he was willing and committed in everything he did.

The worry is, the more that is asked of him, the less he has to give. The swing, once so potent, is present less often than it was. The pace, at the start of his career so sharp, can still be summoned, but not for so long. The length, once so probing, is now shorter as the fear of being driven has grown.

He remains a fine bowler and England's best. But there are a lot of miles in the legs. And with 16 more Tests to come in the next nine months, you fear that the gentle decline could become terminal. Two more Tests on this sort of wicket - "there aren't many flatter" was his view - is no way to treat such a precious talent.

The same could be said of Stuart Broad. Broad had a decent game with the ball and, in managing to trick Marlon Samuels with a cutter in the first innings and bounce out Kraigg Brathwaite in the second, showed that he had the package of skills to take wickets even on such surfaces.

But it was noticeable on the last afternoon that, armed with the second new ball, for all his effort and bluster, he rarely managed to bowl quicker than 81 mph. He, too, may simply have too many miles on the clock.

Whether England bring in a fresh seamer for the second Test depends on two factors: how the members of the current team react to their exertions and how the pitch in Grenada appears. While Mark Wood, bowling with pace and swing, is in pole position, it seems likely the next wicket will also be slow and placid.

"I honestly don't think there was much we could have done different," Cook said afterwards. "We tried everything. We tried different tactics. We tried getting it to reverse. We bowled pretty good areas all day.

"We threw everything we had at the West Indies. We played a pretty good match and came up just a little short."

It will be tempting to look for quick fixes. It will be tempting, for example, to suggest that the presence of a left-arm fast bowler or legspinner might have offered more variation in the attack.

While there are some talented left-arm fast bowlers in county cricket - Mark Footitt is probably the most polished, but Tymal Mills and Atif Sheikh are also promising - it would be disingenuous to suggest any would necessarily have unlocked any devil in this pitch.

Equally, while the concept of including a legspinner in the side is attractive, the reality of Adil Rashid's bowling of late has been less so. His flaw is that, while he can bowl with skill and control for Yorkshire, there is a perception that he lacks the pace to succeed on Test surfaces and against Test batsmen. Then, when he tries to bowl with more pace, he loses control.

"I think the whole dressing has a bit of a downer on because we left everything on the pitch, as we had to do," Cook said.

You can't ask more from a team than they do their best and England gave that, in the field at least, in Antigua. It may well not be a fair surface on which to judge a bowling attack, but it does remain a lingering concern that England appear to lack the weapons damage opposition in such circumstances.