(Photo by Matthew Lewis/Getty Images)
By Peter Jackson
A Welshman played a major role in the startling transformation of the West Indies from their skittling at Edgbaston one week to historic victory at Headingley the next.
Toby Radford, re-signed as the tourists’ batting coach last year following his abrupt removal by Glamorgan, describes how they did the seemingly impossible and how their opener Kraigg Brathwaite recovered from the rout in Birmingham to show the rest the way.
At Leeds, Brathwaite batted through more than 70 overs over the course of ten hours, lasting longer at the crease than the whole team at Edgbaston in both innings put together. A lot of home truths had been told by the time they arrived at Headingley.
“Two days after Edgbaston we went back to the dressing-room for an open, honest meeting between players and coaches,” Radford, the former Middlesex opener and first-team coach, said. “We all agreed that we’d been timid and not shown enough fight.
“We knew that it had been a very weak and poor performance but that we were still a good side with top-quality players,” Radford said. “We had beaten Pakistan twice this year, had scored several centuries and achieved five-wicket hauls.
“We had not been aggressive enough with the ball and most of our dismissals were to deliveries that seamed back into the stumps getting us bowled or leg before.”
West Indies suffered ten such dismissals in the first Test, just two in the second: Brathwaite clean bowled by Stuart Broad but not before he had made 134, tail-ender Shannon Gabriel leg before to Ben Stokes. Average score per batsmen more than trebled from a feeble 16 at Edgbaston to 50 at Headingley.
“We discussed the need for our batsmen to make subtle changes to their technique to cope better with the moving ball,” Radford, 45, said “That meant adjusting their guard on the crease, going slightly more to leg side as well as straightening their backswing and standing outside the crease to help negate the movement.
“At the end of a very productive meeting, when every player and every member of our support said what they thought, the players set to work on specific areas that had been agreed with the coaches. We believed that would give them the best chance of success against the high-quality attack in their testing home conditions.
“When we reached Headingley it rained heavily so we set the bowling machine up indoors to replicate the angles, pace and lateral movement of (Jimmy) Anderson and Stuart Broad.
“We looked at making one or two minor adjustments that we’d discussed earlier and viewed on screen. We focused on being tight in defence and on leaving balls that pitched in the ‘channel’.
“Players were determined to play with a more positive mindset and body language. We talked with the batsmen about positive decision-making and moving their feet.
“Indecision can be a recipe for disaster in England where movement is often late and sharp. Kraigg Brathwaite was always going to be a key batsman for us. He has scored many centuries and won Test matches in the West Indies.
“He has great powers of concentration and enjoys batting for long periods. He struggled a little in the warm-up matches so we used the indoor schools in Kent and Derby to work on adjusting his position when the ball was released.
“He stood taller for better balance. His hands were closer to his body and the bat came from first slip, not from behind his head which it had done until then. That meant he could get to the ball much easier.
“We analysed video footage together and used the indoor schools to hone his new set-up. In the second innings at Edgbaston he looked much more like he was when he batted for more than a day and a half to help us beat Pakistan in Sharjah last year.
That was crucial. Kraigg is a real calm, solid performer who commits to batting for long, long spells. That allows our stroke players to bat around him. He is central to our good team batting performances.
“Shai Hope proved that he is a high quality batsman with a guaranteed huge future. Being the first player to score a century in both innings of a first-class match at this famous ground was a mammoth achievement and clear testimony to his enormous talent.”
Kieran Powell, Brathwaite’s opening partner who considers Radford’s “knowledge of batting as second to none”, goes to Lord’s in urgent need of improving on scores of 20, 10, 23, 5 and 23.
“Kieran is close to making a big score,” Radford said. “I am confident that he, too, will come good before this series is over. These are young lads with great skills.
“This marvellous win will have done so much for their confidence and belief. Our players have proved they can beat the best in the world. The challenge now is to keep doing it.
“Test wins against England in their difficult home conditions are hard to achieve. We must strive to reach the same high level of consistency.”
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