Alex Massie

Caribbean Lessons

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In the grander scheme of matters, a West Indian series victory which left England thinking they should really have won the series 2-1 was not a bad result. England can argue that they were the better side for most the series and  only just failed to turn their superiority into victory. For the West Indies, the importance of a first series victory in five years cannot be over-stated. Caribbean cricket desperately needed this and so what if they remain just half a team and should, by rights, have been beaten by a pretty ordinary England team.

In other circumstances the West Indians' decision not to even try and win the final test would have been reprehensible; as it was it became understandable if still, to my mind, regrettable and slightly contrary to the spirit of the game. That is, I like bowlers to try and take wickets, not keep the opposition batting for as long as possible.

Looking at matters from an English perspective - and ignoring the importance of a west Indian revival - and we see a gloomy, depressing picture. England failed to dismiss the West Indies twice and even arguments that Anderson and Sidebottom are better suited to English than Caribbean conditions cut little mustard. Add in Flintoff's injury and Harmison's haplessness and it's not a pretty sight. Especially when you consider that England were beaten by a side with only three batsmen (plus the dogged Nash) and two and a bit bowlers (Edwards, Taylor and Benn). Australia will bring a full team to England this summer.

If - and it's a hefty if - England can call upon a fit Andrew Flintoff who will bat at six, then who will play at 3? (My guess is that the 

selectors greatest wish is for Michael Vaughan to be fit and scoring heavily for Yorkshire). Assuming a five man attack will include Flintoff, Broad, Anderson and either Panesar or Swann then who is the final seamer? Again, I suspect the selectors must be looking back to 2005 and hoping that Simon Jones is, for once, fit and, less unusually, bowling well.

But, to put it another way, how many Englishmen would get into a combined Ashes XI assuming everyone is fit and in form? Not many. And that's rather troubling.

Equally disconcerting is the thought that if Australia had been presented with chances to win the game of the sort that England 

enjoyed at Antigua and Trinidad one rather thinks they would have won at least one, and probably both, matches. Boldness is generally rewarded; timidity is not. That's another lesson worth learning.

Written byAlex Massie

Alex Massie is Scotland Editor of The Spectator. He also writes a column for The Times and is a regular contributor to the Scottish Daily Mail, The Scotsman and other publications.

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