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England v West Indies: Third Test review

England have regained the Wisden Trophy following a comprehensive 269-run victory at Old Trafford.

Following a miserable washout on the fourth day, England were left needing eight wickets on Tuesday to complete their victory march and start the summer with a series win.

Stuart Broad was the star of the show, as he was in the second Test match, taking 10 wickets in this all-important decider. His 6-31 in the first innings afforded England the time to rest their bowlers and extend their lead, while an electrifying four overs at the end of the third day ensured that the rain became nothing more than an excuse for a day in bed.

Rory Burns was excellent too, contributing in both innings, while Ollie Pope and Jos Buttler’s efforts helped England up to an imposing total of 399 for their first attempt. Oh, and Broad also smashed 62 off 45 when the Windies threatened to turn the tide – just in case his demolition with the ball wasn’t enough.

He’s big, he’s bad…

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He is most definitely better than his Dad (sorry, Chris).

Broady is in the form of his life, and that’s saying something given his career wickets tally of 501. Looking at how he’s been running in over the past two Test matches, there is little doubt that he can add significantly to that total over the coming years.

Exactly when he will decide to hang up his boots is anyone’s guess, but it’s clear that he has absolutely no plans to do so just yet: “I feel fit, my fitness testing post-lockdown was the best it’s ever been. I feel excited. I’m really enjoying playing around this group”.

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Broad has, incredibly, almost slipped under the radar for much of his career. Jimmy Anderson is rightly regarded as a great of the game, and reached the 500-wicket milestone before his partner in crime.

But let us not underestimate just how good a bowler Broad is; he lives rent-free inside most left-handers’ heads, and has shown us all this series how hungry he is to keep improving. He’s taken just about every type of wicket imaginable and does it on the biggest stages when the pressure is on.

A true great of the game already, he undoubtedly still has plenty to offer English cricket both on and off the pitch. Anyone who takes 500 (yes, that’s five hundred) Test wickets should be regarded as one of the best cricketers of all time, and Broad is no different.

The tourists collapse

Just as the post-match interviews began, Old Trafford was hit by something of a deluge from above. Had the Windies been able to hold out for another half hour, they may well have been helped significantly by the skies above. That will frustrate Jason Holder and his men immensely, as their batting in this decisive Test match was a million miles from the performance they produced in Southampton.

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The circumstances may have been different – it’s always easier when you’re only facing down 200 – but if this West Indian outfit is to go as far as it has ambitions to, they’re going to need to respond better to half-decent totals. Their resolute, positive approach in the first game was sadly lacking in both innings here, and you felt it was just a matter of time before England’s bowlers nipped one back through their tentative forward prods.

It’s perhaps a little harsh to be too critical. They’ve been away from home during a global pandemic under strict lockdown for around 6 weeks now. Add Broad into the equation and that is bound to take its toll; most sides would surely have found the conditions here challenging. It will be interesting to see how Pakistan’s performances are affected the longer they’re over here – if they also struggle later in the series, it will put the West Indies’ performance into a little more context.

Encouraging signs

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England have got most things right this series. It was, realistically, just the first innings of the first Test that let them down. Since, they have performed really well under pressure and had few troubles in overturning the initial deficit in the end.

Slowly but surely, England’s Test XI is taking shape. There is still some degree of balance to be found and the team is not yet perfect, but since Chris Silverwood’s appointment and the added emphasis on red-ball cricket, the level of performances have followed a very clear trajectory.