If there was any trace of devastation or discord in England’s squad after their defeat by the world’s 10th-ranked side in the opening one-day international in Antigua it was impossible to distinguish at their first training session since that game. It began with a particularly raucous game of pig, the football keepy-uppy game that has long since been adopted as a regular warm-up.
A minor novelty has been introduced for this tour: instead of simply getting their ear flicked, a die-roll decides the punishment for whoever is responsible for letting the ball drop, and the game thus concluded with Phil Salt bending over while Brydon Carse wellied the ball towards his posterior.
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The point being, sometimes it takes only a minor change to freshen things up. It is possible that one of Carse or Sam Curran, the two bowlers who took such heavy punishment towards the end of Sunday’s opener, will sit out Wednesday’s second encounter against West Indies but England are essentially hoping to repeat almost every aspect of their opening performance – but in doing so achieve a different result. “To be honest I thought we batted pretty much perfectly,” said Harry Brook. “We probably didn’t quite bowl as we wanted to, which I’m sure the lads would admit, but it was just a very tough ground to defend.”
Their opponents have very similar ambitions, except that while England were happy with all stages of the game except the last few overs, West Indies enjoyed everything except the first few, when Salt in particular scored a little over-freely. “I thought that all in all we played really well, we’ll just continue into the second game,” said Shai Hope, their captain. “We just have to be on the money from ball one. We can’t allow teams to get away like that on a consistent basis.”
Brook top-scored for England with 71, and 10 months after his ODI debut found his 13th game was lucky for him. “I liked the way I went about my innings, really,” he said. “Obviously I’ve struggled a bit in this format at the start of my ODI career. I haven’t quite found the tempo of how I wanted to play. But the way I went about it the other day I was pretty happy with.
“The World Cup was a tough tour but there was plenty to take away. You’ve got so much more time in ODI cricket than you think – that was one of them. England have been renowned for being an aggressive side but there’s always so much time. Trying to be a bit more relaxed in my own game. I went back home and had a session with my school coach, and just tried to nail down the basics again, trying to be relaxed at the crease and watch the ball.”
This has been another dizzying year for the 24-year-old: in the last 12 months he has played 10 Tests, a two-day warm-up match, 14 ODIs, four international T20s, another 11 for franchises and eight games in the Hundred, a total of 89 scheduled days of cricket, 24.4% of the last 365 days. Add in travel and training and there has not been a lot of downtime.
“I probably felt like I needed a little bit of a break after the World Cup to be honest,” he said. “Yeah, it wears you out. Obviously we didn’t have a great competition as well, which didn’t help. I didn’t really score any runs which also doesn’t help, so to have a little two-week break at home was refreshing. But how long I want to be there depends on the weather really. If the weather’s shocking, I’m ready to get out of the country after three or four days. Obviously family don’t like hearing that, but I was pretty happy to get out of the country, get some nice weather and be doing what I love again.”
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While most members of the World Cup squad were allowed an extended break, Brook had to make a swift turnaround. “England made the decision but I’m happy to be here to be honest,” he said. “It’s a different lifestyle. I’ve been waking up at six o’clock every morning and jumping in the sea.”
Brook has now signed a three-year central contract, allowing England to decide his itinerary until the end of 2026. “There was no negotiation. Straight away as soon as England called I was always going to sign it,” he said. “I’ve wanted to play for England all my life.”
Not many players have made such a smooth transition from spending most of their life wanting to play for England to spending most of their life actually playing for England.
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