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Jonathan Agnew column

Jonathan Agnew
By Jonathan Agnew
BBC cricket correspondent

Ian Bell
The number three is a huge problem. Perhaps Ian Bell will go back to Warwickshire, clear his head and score a mountain of runs

So, in the end, it was not to be for England whose positive approach to the final Test gave us a thrilling finish.

It has been a series that, at times, has tested the patience of those both playing and watching it because of the batsman-friendly pitches that yielded 17 centuries in all, but the climax was another reminder of what is truly great about Test cricket.

As always, though, the bottom line is the result, and there is no escaping the fact that for England this will be a massive disappointment.

I am not convinced, having seen every ball bowled, that there is much to choose between the two teams, and it might just be that this will act as a wake-up call to those who still cling to the belief that England are better than they are.

The number three is a huge problem. Perhaps Ian Bell will go back to Warwickshire, clear his head and score a mountain of runs. Personally, I still see him batting lower down the order. Meanwhile, Owais Shah is destined for the sidelines.

He looks far too anxious for a man who must play the pivotal role in the batting order, he is a poor fielder and, at 30, is unlikely to kick on.

There is a hole to be filled – and so the likes of Rob Key and Michael Vaughan will start their county seasons knowing that early form is critical.


England are still looking for a cutting edge – a Fidel Edwards who tore in whole-heartedly on slow pitches here and made them look distinctly lively at times. Steve Harmison remains the only bowler in England with that potential hostility, but has actually produced it all too rarely.

It is a major problem, and while Andrew Flintoff will be expected to deliver the aggression, he simply cannot be relied upon to remain fit.

Stuart Broad improved in leaps and bounds, Graeme Swann produced the best spell of off spin bowling by any Englishman for years in the second innings here and there are signs that being dropped might have got Monty Panesar to accept that he needs to do more than simply let the ball go in the same way time after time.

His rather silly and false shows of aggression are an unfortunate addition, and he has to sort out his appealing.

The main issue, again, will be the preparation of the players.

Too often England lose the first Test of an overseas tour, and it was that hopeless batting performance in Jamaica that cost them again this time.

It does not have to be much longer in terms of time, but sharper in competition – say two proper, first class four day games – and I reckon it would pay dividends.

For now, we should salute the West Indies and hope that this long-awaited victory gives cricket a much needed shot in the arm in the Caribbean.

They will return in very early May – and they had better prepare for some thoroughly unfamiliar conditions which will test even the hardiest.

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see also
Windies hold on to clinch series
10 Mar 09 |  England
Strauss defends declaration time
10 Mar 09 |  England
Fifth Test day five as it happened
10 Mar 09 |  England
England set for final-day charge
09 Mar 09 |  England
Sidebottom to miss one-day series
09 Mar 09 |  England
West Indies duo frustrate England
08 Mar 09 |  England
Broad condemns Caribbean pitches
08 Mar 09 |  England
Fifth Test day three as it happened
08 Mar 09 |  England
West Indies v England day 3 photos
08 Mar 09 |  Cricket
Jonathan Agnew column
07 Mar 09 |  England
Jonathan Agnew column
06 Mar 09 |  England
England in West Indies 2009
29 Dec 08 |  England

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