Three things to watch out for when England play the West Indies this week

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Cricket’s back.

As in ‘returned’.

It hasn’t got ankylosing spondylitis or anything.

England play the West Indies at the Rose Bowl, starting tomorrow (Wednesday). It’s on Sky Sports (which you can get one month at a time via Now TV) with highlights on BBC2 at 7pm.

Here are three things to watch out for.

1. The England captain

When our son was born earlier this year, a friend of ours lied to his mum about the name we’d chosen. He committed to this lie enough that we actually received a card from her congratulating us on the birth of ‘Benjamin’.

The full name this friend was attempting to persuade us to use was ‘Benjamin Stokes’. (You know, because of the World Cup thing and the Headingley 2019 thing and all that.)

This week the original Ben Stokes will again raise his profile through the birth of a child, because Joe Root is missing the first Test to be with his wife.

Will Stokes be a rash captain, a canny captain, an innovative captain or a try-and-do-everything-himself captain?

We’ve no idea, which is precisely why it’ll be worth watching.

Captains quite often surprise you. We weren’t sold on Nasser Hussain and he was ferociously great and then we weren’t sold on Michael Vaughan either because Nasser had won us over with his wild-eyed way of doing things. After that we thought Andrew Strauss would be rubbish too and basically we don’t know anything.

2. Fast bowlers

Fast bowlers don’t often get a prolonged break. Some need a workload and rhythm to work up to full speed; others need to be fresh and only very rarely get to be that ordinarily.

It’ll be interesting to watch the speed gun for these next couple of Tests.

3. The noise

Rob Key, Mike Atherton, Nasser Hussain and David Lloyd had a surprisingly long conversation about fake crowd noise on a Sky Sports Cricket video podcast the other day.

The general consensus was that they’ll be able to play a bit of “the Lord’s hum” for ambience and viewers will for the most part find the spectator-less match less jarring as a consequence.

There’s not much broadcasters can do about the surges of noise you’d normally get for exciting moments though. Suppose we’ll just have to pretend it’s one of those well-attended games that no-one massively cares about where it’s just after lunch and very hot and everyone’s had too much to eat and drink and the actual cricket’s passing everyone by a bit.



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  1. I’ve only skimmed this, I’m a busy man and all that, but did I read it right that your baby son is now captain of the England test team? But this makes no sense, because if it were true you would know what sort of captain he would be – largely unfazed by the scoreboard pressure, likely to be distracted by bright colours, and oscillating between a zen-like calm and a fury of huge volume, all seemingly unrelated to the state of play.

    I worry about this. Modern cricket teams research the strengths and weaknesses of their opponents in minute detail. What is going to happen, for example, if the West Indies suddenly produce a Peppa Pig cuddly toy at a crucial moment? Christ, what if it’s Iggle-Piggle? This is going to be chaos.

    1. He is pretty chilled and non-interventionist. Think he would make an excellent international coach in the Trevor Bayliss mode, reducing the pressure on his charges, freeing them to play at their best without fear of failure.

  2. Flipping heck, your son was born earlier this year not about 1,005 years ago as it seems?

    I worry that Stokes will do well and there will be some sort of ‘controversy’ over whether he should be the captain so Root can focus on his batting. I also worry that Stokes will do badly and there will be some sort of panic over who the next captain will be or in games where Root is unavailable or being ‘rotated’.

    In summary, I worry.

  3. I accidentally caught a bit of Association Football on television the other day. It seemed as if there was someone pressing different ‘crowd noise’ buttons based on what was happening. ‘Ooh’ when someone kicked it near the goal. ‘Boo’ when someone did a bad tackle.

    Can they at least have a recording of Billy the trumpeter cued up just in case?

    1. For added authenticity in a home Test there would need to be loud noise, repurposed football chants, and cheers completely unrelated to the match in the evening session, prompting one of the commentators to make a wry remark about the crowd being ‘well-oiled’, having ‘enjoyed the facilities’ or similar.

      1. The person in charge of the noise buttons could start drinking at 11am, that would accurately simulate things.

      2. We always wait until midday when we’re at the Test because we have standards.

      3. I also try to do that, but as I typically turn up after the others it very quickly becomes a done deal. A few years ago I took my seat at 11 o’clock to find two pints waiting for me.

      4. Yes, it’s not an area where it’s easy to have much control, let alone wider influence.

  4. To be honest, I’m finding it hard to engage with this restart just yet.

    It’s decades since I have had no skin in the game, from the point of view of having tickets to go and watch some of the test cricket live.

    In any case, I don’t REALLY believe the cricket’s going to get started tomorrow. Just look at the weather forecast.

    Anyway, Daisy and I are simply refusing to accept that we do not have an appointment to view in Marylebone tomorrow, so we’re going to go to NW8 in person and darn the consequences…

    …as we did last week, and the week before…

    If you have never heard the Rossmore Road song, btw, you are just two clicks away from “quirky single heaven”. I suspect that Prince Prefab and several others around here will approve.

  5. Honestly I’ve been looking forward to English cricket sans English chorus for some time now.

  6. I remember watching a test match from Eden Park where there was cheering at a completely inappropriate moment because the people in the corporate boxes were watching the rugby and the Blues scored a try or something and won the match. The sound was exacerbated because I think they were pretty much the only people in the park.

    I guess my point is cricketers should perhaps be used to playing in front of not many people. And we who watch cricket should be used to watching cricket being played in front of no-one.

    My son who was going to be called something similar but different but something about count back rules precluded it. Anyway his older sister calls him seaweed.

  7. I hope Stokes does well enough that Root is ‘demoted’ to being just a batsman (and a very good one he is too when he’s not carrying the burden of captaincy). Of course, being England captain will mean that Stokes’ game will fall away (another thing England can ill afford). At which point we will need to find another player (maybe go back to Root).

    I suggest a revolving door captaincy. Alternate seasons between Stokes and Root.

  8. I take it all back. I’m all excited now.

    The weather forecast – while still a bit iffy – has much improved. Can’t see them starting on time or anything like that, but equally it no longer looks like a washout forecast.

    Glad I’m not there in the crowd today for a damp “on-off, off-on” day…

    …oh yeh, no-one’s there in the crowd today.

  9. Nasser, Vaughan, Strauss was a very decent run of captains (doing a memory wipe re Freddy) wasn’t it? Easy to forget how lucky we were. Athers was better than his W/L/D record suggested too. Interesting how in retrospect there was a captain-in-waiting in each case but not necessarily someone you’d expect to be as good as they turned out to be. Wonder how this relates to the truncated county careers most English Test cricketers now have. Lots of the eighties captains had been county captains, up into the early nineties with Gooch. Since the nineties, Strauss had county captaincy experience, has anyone else? Perhaps the lack of experience is why some of them turn out so surprising.

    1. Seems like you did an even more comprehensive memory wipe for Kevin Pietersen.

      1. Another one down the memory hole yes. Fun fact: as dramatic as the Capn’n KP “era” was, he only captained one more Test than Tres.

  10. Crickets are happening! Actual crickets. We’ve won the toss and will BAT.

    Yay! It is always better to win the toss, and always better to bat first. This cannot possibly change. So when we are 65 for 5 at tea, the ball doing loops, it will still by definition be BETTER.

    Is it only cricket that makes you increasingly worried with every piece of good fortune?

    1. 80s cricket is back! One camera, slightly off-centre, no replays, no graphics. And now it’s become one close-up camera, we can’t even see the bowler.

      And 90s cricket is back! Nought for one, leaving a straight one!

      1. Thousands of people simultaneously saying: ‘I reckon it’s clearing up a bit now’.

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