Familiar frailties hit England as they lost 2-1 in the West Indies. Yet there were also positives to be drawn. Read our assessment of the series here.

England slipped into old habits in the Caribbean, with batting collapses and a lack of X-factor with the ball ultimately condemning them to a 2-1 series defeat at the hands of Jason Holder's men.

Perhaps the best thing you can say for their performance in the series is that Joe Root's men have done the sporting world a favour. Test cricket is infinitely better with a strong West Indies team, and at times throughout the three matches they did a decent impression of the all-conquering Caribbean sides of the 1970s and 80s.

Little-heralded before the start of the series, the Windies' pace attack blew England away with regularity. And while this was rarely a high-scoring contest, Jason Holder's men demonstrated an ability to bat with patience and build an innings on their way to a declared second innings total of 416 in the first Test at Bridgetown. That said, Holder himself showed little restraint in bludgeoning an astonishing 202* from just 229 balls in that same innings.

While the West Indies' performance was full of hope (and we're not talking about Shai Hope, their belligerent number three batsman), England's was a tale of familiar woes.

Joe Root would have hoped that his top three of Rory Burns, Keaton Jennings and Jonny Bairstow would be able to kick on after the success of the Sri Lanka tour. But it simply wasn't to be.

England collapsed twice in the first Test, being skittled for 77 in the first innings and losing their final seven wickets for 79 runs in the second. In an odd way, the first innings - when they were blown away by the pace of Kemar Roach - will have seemed more comforting than the second, in which part-time spinner Roston Chase took eight wickets without ever having to turn a ball.

Jennings was dropped for the second Test, with Joe Denly the latest man to be given a shot at opening the batting. Then for the third Test, Jennings was back again, with Bairstow handed the wicket-keeping gloves and demoted back down the order to his favoured number seven position, while Denly was shunted to number three.

Never mind building a stable top order; England tried a different top-three combo in each of the three Tests, and now face the worrying prospect of entering an Ashes summer with little concept of how their batting line-up should look.

The struggles continued throughout the batting line-up. Ben Stokes was the only man to average more than 30. Joe Root, England's one genuine world-class batsman, endured a torrid time until the second innings of the final Test, when he notched a glorious 122. That innings aside, he scored 55 runs in the series at an average of 11.

And yet strangely, there are also plenty of positives to be drawn from this ignominious series defeat.

Joe Denly rode his luck but ground out an encouraging half-century batting at three in the final match, and has probably done enough to guarantee himself a place in the first Ashes Test.

Likewise, Rory Burns showed plenty of grit throughout the series and fell within 16 runs of a maiden Test century at Bridgetown. Six matches into his Test career, his average of 25 is nothing to get excited about, but it should be remembered that all have been played in challenging overseas conditions. He, too, should start the Ashes.

Even more pleasingly, Ben Stokes appears to be approaching his best just in time for the arrival of the Australians. He batted with aggression in the final Test, something that he has struggled to do of late, and bowled with real ferocity at times.

But undoubtedly the biggest success story is Mark Wood's return to the five-day game. Despite making his debut four years ago, the Durham fast bowler has played just 13 Tests due to a series of niggling injuries. He wouldn't even have been in the Caribbean were it not for the injury to Olly Stone, and probably wouldn't have played at all were it not for England's feeble display in the opening two matches.

Called on for the final Test, Wood bowled aggressively, and at speeds rarely seen since the glory days of Flintoff and Harmison. One first-innings delivery was clocked at almost 95 mph. He rattled through the West Indian middle order and was generously brought back on to mop up number 11 Shannon Gabriel to claim his maiden five-wicket haul in Tests.

If Wood is able to stay fit for the next four-and-a-half months (and that's a big if, given his past record), the 29-year-old looks an absolute shoo-in for the Ashes. Root will be licking his lips at the prospect of calling on a bowler with searing pace to unleash on the Aussies.



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