Here, we consider what has been learned form the past two weeks.
ENGLAND HAVE THREE OPENERS
Well, they do if and when Alex Hales is cleared to play again. Jason Roy had suffered a miserable run of form up to being dropped for the Champions Trophy semi-final back in June. But returning alongside the man who replaced him, he and Jonny Bairstow excelled with successive century stands in the space of three days. Hales may have to wait for his next opportunity, for more than one reason.
CAUGHT OUT IN BRISTOL
It is yet to transpire exactly what happened at the end of Ben Stokes and Alex Hales’ night out in the Clifton Triangle. But whether Stokes is charged or not, following his arrest on suspicion of causing actual bodily harm, much damage has clearly been done – to his reputation and potentially England’s Ashes prospects. The questions England must now answer collectively are how to negotiate the fallout effectively and fairly, and whether their management of young sportsmen habitually away from home for extended periods of time needs to be modified.
A TEAM OF TWO HALVES
Almost all bowling attacks are occasionally prey to the crowd-pleasing extremes of white-ball cricket, and England’s hugely-talented white-ball batting line-up is adept at taking advantage. Even the bowlers can smash it if needed, which they were not against the West Indies. With the ball, though, England are arguably more vulnerable than most. Liam Plunkett and Chris Woakes have emerged as go-to bankers in the current line-up, but it is hard to have as much confidence in those around them to take wickets or keep the fours and sixes in check.
MORGAN DESERVES SOME CREDIT
England’s captain Eoin Morgan has had plenty on his plate over the last fortnight. He must have been aghast at the events of Bristol, but responded in public only with a predictably steely display of authority. The Irishman is also having one of his dramatically lean spells with the bat, which cannot have made his task any easier. To watch him in the field or at press conferences, though, it was hard to detect someone who was under any hint of stress.
WINDIES ARE AT ANOTHER CROSSROADS
England’s troubles may be transient, and they were still able to extend their ODI superiority over the tourists to a remarkable 16 victories in their last 17 completed matches against them. Chris Gayle’s return for the Windies brought just tantalising glimpses, as he turned 38, of his unmatched power. It is far from clear whether he has the appetite or stamina for a long-term comeback, though – while Marlon Samuels, also in the fold again after his disagreements with the board, was unable to revisit any former glories. Whether they, or others reportedly also in the mood to return, will be on board to help the two-time World Cup winners qualify for the 2019 edition in this country remains a mystery.