‘Nobody move. I dropped me brain!’ Recognise the quote? Ah yes of course, it’s uttered by the brilliantly mad, or madly brilliant Captain Jack Sparrow. Or is it? After England’s surrender to the West Indies it could equally have been cried by the entire team! Far from being the conquering Pirates of the Caribbean we’d hoped, England lie 1-0 down in a three test series. Their performance in Barbados was even worse than Depp’s in the latest film of the ongoing piratical franchise. Limp. Squeamish. A ghostly mirage of past glories in Sri Lanka. Although at least it means we can resurrect ‘The Dummy’s Guide To Cricket’ from Davy Jones locker…

The Curse Of The Black Pearl

Only once in 51 years has the England test side stolen West Indian booty. Back in the pre-Ashes winter of 2004, a Steve Harmison rejuvenated side tore apart Brian Lara’s swashbucklers. Combining fearsome pace with gigantic height, Harmy was unplayable on the fast tracks of the Caribbean; a lesson for generations to come. Unfortunately, whether it is through arrogance or naivety the England of 2019 opted for a differing approach in their team selection. Towering 433 wicket bowler Stuart Broad was made to walk the plank, as treasure-trove Sam Curran opened the bowling with Jimmy. A selection which would go on to curse Captain Root.

After all, Curran may be deadly in English conditions, yet the ball has to be swinging for his lolloping deliveries to succeed. On a roasting hot, breezeless day he is exactly the sort of bowler you want… if you’re a batsman. First innings figures of 0-54 summed up Root’s curse. Had it not been for Anderson’s 27th five-for, the Windies score would have been well over 300. Mind you 289 proved to be 212 runs too many…

Adil Rashid’s selection was likewise a puzzling decision. With no Broad, England’s second spinner requires an end holding role, something Jack Leach can achieve with an eye patch. Instead Bayliss and Root went for the more mystery spin of Rashid; a decision which backfired with the ferocity of the Black Pearl’s cannon. Rashid finished with 0-117; figures which stand out starkly to part time spinner Roston Chase’s 8-60.

As Hector says, ‘you better start believe in ghost stories Mr Rashid… you’re in one!’

Dead Man’s Chest

There can be little doubt that England bat like Davy Jones’ crew. Stuck in a circle of hell, they are trapped in an unending replay of wickets clattering. This time last winter it was 58 all out. And now, much to the glee of Holder’s men, 77 has become the deadly number. A grand total of 18 wickets fell on Day Two, as the heart of England was stabbed into a bloody pulp. Meshed by the rapid fire of those Windies quicks. In the 1980s Boycott bravely battled Holding, Garner and Roberts. A decade later Ambrose and Walsh annihilated Atherton’s advances. Imagine Jennings and Mo against those fearsome brutes? You simply can’t, as the accurate Kemar Roach chilled the England of 2019 to their very core.

Roach’s 5-17 was backed up by the aggression of Gabriel and the approach of Holder. It took just one session for England to be washed away. No Kraken needed to be summoned; instead the ineptitude of the ‘bold’ approach by Root was clear. Afterwards, picking through the shipwreck, Bayliss believed his side ‘lack mental toughness.’ A statement we’ve heard more times than the word ‘pirate.’ This England side are simultaneously the greatest and worst side in test match cricket. The amount of ups and downs is enough to make spectators seasick.

A horrific 2017 winter was followed by eight wins in nine matches as cohesion appeared to exist between brain and brawn. Yet amidst those glorious triumphs, we witnessed the worrying traits. An inability for openers to reach half century partnerships, consistent collapsing at 40-4 and mesmerising saving by Buttler and Curran. When the latter two are unable to perform another miracle, the bleak reality is clear. England are woeful at batting.

At World’s End

Worse was to come. Day Three saw a grand total of ZERO wickets taken. Quite remarkably Jason Holder and Shane Dowrich, put England’s bowlers to the sword. From 120-6, the Windies set sail to a magnificent 415-6 declared. By the end Holder was teasing Root, psychologically damaging the England fielders. The chase didn’t matter – over 600 to win. But whilst the chase didn’t matter Roston Chase clearly did and the brainless batting in the second innings was bloody typical.

Roston Chase is a part time bowler. Fact. In his previous 26 test he only achieved one five wicket haul. Fact. 8-60 is now the best figures by a West Indian spinner AND better than Shane Warne. Fact.

Languidly turning his arm, this slow arm bowler made the wicket appear trickier than Sparrow’s use of language. Without spinning a single delivery Chase tied England up in knots. Whether it was playing down the wrong line, feebly scooping to mid-wicket or sweeping into short leg, England panicked like pirates when the rum vanishes. This was their chance to have a proper net session, grinding out the challenge with extreme fortitude. Instead they didn’t even manage to last one day. Jennings as stiff as Will upon seeing Miss Swann; Bairstow has a problem with pace; Root now averages less than 50 for the first time since 2016; Stokes struggles with discipline and Moeen Ali is about as useful with bat in hand as Master Gibbs is with a pocket calculator.

We turn once more to the wisdom if Captain Jack. ‘The problem is not the problem. The problem is your attitude about the problem.’ England need to turn this lazy attitude around, sharpish.

On Stranger Tides

Were a stranger to view the action at the Kensington Oval, they’d be inclined to say the team in maroon caps lay at three in the world test rankings. Belaying their position just above Bangladesh, Jason Holder’s side left England gobsmacked. On a bowling front they performed with accuracy, venom and pace. Whilst with bat in hand Holder, Dowrich and Hetmyer dominated the crease, shimmering like the ghosts of Richards and Lara. Make no mistake this West Indian side have a lot of potential. They’re certainly not the push overs Geoffrey Boycott would have England believe. Yes England were shockingly poor, but some credit must go to the Windies.

Like Boycs, Freddie Flintoff was ignorant in his assessment of Jason Holder’s batting, commenting the ‘world’s gone mad’ as Holder reached his double century. Hate to break it to you Fred but Holder’s 33.86 batting and 28.29 bowling averages put yours to shame. Plus the Windies all-rounder is in the ICC Test Team of the Year. How many England players featured? I’ll give you three guesses…

Dead Men Tell No Tales

Only the 2004 side have successfully plundered the Caribbean and if Joe Root wants to tell the tale, the second test is critical. Otherwise England will sink beneath the ocean waves. With Broady chomping at the bit he must surely feature, with Curran missing out. Likewise you fancy Jack Leach over Adil Rashid. Indeed were Jennings to fail, there may even be an argument to give Joe Denly a chance in the final test. Or Captain Barbossa on one leg. Either will do.

Otherwise the West Indies will remain the true Pirates of the Caribbean.