England win the final Test against West Indies in a game overshadowed by on-field homophobic comments

West Indies bowler Shannon Gabriel allegedly asked Root ‘why are you smiling? Do you like boys?’

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England claimed a 232-run win in the third and final Test against West Indies to stop the first whitewashing by their opposition since 1986. The victory was vital if they want to stand any chance of beating Australia in the upcoming Ashes series.

After the game, captain Joe Root said that “this was a really important week for this group. It has been much more what we are about. To play in the manner we have, coming back from two disappointing games, was massive going into what is a really important summer. It is nice to finish on a high even though we have lost the series.”

With several batting collapses in the first two Tests, England relished their opposition suffering a similar fate, losing all ten wickets for 154 runs in the first innings. This collapse meant that when England declared on 361-5 in their second innings, West Indies had to chase 485 runs to win. 

Root led his side impressively, scoring 122 runs to guide England to victory. However, it was during his time at the crease that an incident with West Indies bowler Shannon Gabriel occurred, which has sadly dampened an otherwise great Test series.

Describing the incident, Gabriel said: “the pressure was on and England’s captain Joe Root was looking at me intensely as I prepared to bowl, which may have been the usual psychological strategy with which all Test cricketers are familiar.”

“I recognise now that I was attempting to break through my own tension when I said to Joe Root: ‘why are you smiling? Do you like boys?’ His response, which was picked up by the microphone was: ‘don’t use it as an insult. There’s nothing wrong with being gay’.”

“I then responded: ‘I have no issues with that, but you should stop smiling at me’. I know now that it was offensive and for that I am deeply sorry. To my team-mates and members of the England team, especially their captain Joe Root, I extend an unreserved apology for a comment which in the context of on-the-field rivalry, I assumed was inoffensive sporting banter.”

Gabriel was charged by the International Cricket Council under article 2.13, which is used for the use of language that is not permissible. It states that it “is intended to cover a Player or Player Support Personnel directing language of a personal, insulting, obscene and/or offensive nature at any Player, Player Support Personnel, Umpire or Match Referee during an International Match.”

By accepting this charge, Gabriel was fined 75% of his earnings for the match and picked up three demerit points. As the player already had five, he reached the threshold where he would be given a four-match ODI ban. This means he will miss the first four out of five ODI’s between the two sides starting on February 20th. 

The point Gabriel mentions in his statement, about how he assumed it was “inoffensive sporting banter” is an issue that Cricket commentator Fazeer Mohammed discussed on the Test Match Special podcast.

“In the Caribbean, there tends to be a different attitude towards what I will describe as homophobic remarks. Of course in England and many other parts of the world there’s a very different attitude. There’s a zero level of tolerance to this sort of situation, if it is that he said something that could be defined as homophobic.”

“It’s all part of the learning process. If you’re playing international sport, with all these microphones, all these cameras around, you’re going to get caught sooner or later.”

England suffer embarrassing defeat in West Indies Test Series

Joe Root’s side looks set to suffer their first whitewash against the West Indies since 1986.

The West Indies have achieved their first Test series win against England since 2009 by securing a second Test victory in Antigua to put the score at an insurmountable 2-0 with only one Test remaining. England will be hoping that they can avoid further embarrassment and not suffer a whitewash by winning the final Test in St Lucia.

The opening test took place at the Kensington Oval in Bridgetown, Barbados, a ground where Hanif Mohammad became the first Pakistani batsman to score a triple hundred, hitting 337 runs back in 1958, the eighth-highest score in a single Test innings ever. 

England failed to achieve that figure of 337 runs in total over both innings, reaching a dismal 323 all told. Captain Joe Root’s side fell to a 381 run defeat, the seventh-heaviest Test defeat England have ever suffered, with West Indies off-spinner Roston Chase taking an impressive eight wickets for 60 runs. 

It could be said that the Test was lost after England’s first innings. 77 was all Root’s side could muster, not due to world-class bowling but due to horrendous batting. Burns, Root, Stokes, Ali, Buttler, and Foakes all fell for four or less. 

After the West Indies declared in their second innings 627 runs ahead, England would need to smash the current fourth innings chase record of 418 set by the West Indies in 2003. When Root fell, the score was 167-4 and all was not lost yet, there was still a glimmer of hope for a comeback.

Sadly though the final six wickets were lost for 34 runs in another shambles of a batting performance. After the loss Root said: “we have played way below our potential. We have to remember that there are still two games left in this series and we have to come back very strong very quickly and learn a few lessons.”

“At no point will we underestimate these guys, we haven’t so far. It just shows how difficult it is to win away from home. There are some guys that are hurting. It doesn’t make us a bad side overnight. It’s about picking ourselves up very quickly. We’ve got to learn very quickly.”

Root’s sentiment was echoed by coach Trevor Bayliss and the England side was hoping to bounce back in the second Test taking place at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua. The stadium holds the unsavoury nickname of ‘Antigua’s 366th beach’ due to a Test match against England in 2009 being abandoned after just ten balls.

The groundsmen decided to apply an extra layer of sand after heavy rain in Antigua. The extra sand meant that the West Indies bowlers at the time, Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards, were unable to gain a foothold when running in, making bowling near impossible. 

The incident was an embarrassment for West Indies cricket as the ground was suspended from international cricket for 12 months. England were surely hoping for something similar to happen during their Test, however, the only embarrassment here was the batting performance put forward by Root’s side.

They failed to even reach the run total of the first Test, achieving just 319 over both innings. Going into the West Indies’ second innings they only had to chase 14 runs to win the Test and the series.

As if the run total enough wasn’t enough to put England cricket fans into hiding, the fact that Darren Bravo batted for longer than the whole of England’s second innings should do it. Bravo batted for 342 minutes and hit 50 off 216, the third slowest fifty in Test history. England on the other hand batted for 211 minutes, clearly failing to learn from the mistakes of the first test.

Joe Root seemed a bit more resigned with his remarks after the Test: “we’ve been outperformed once again and that’s quite hard to take. Scoring under 200 isn’t going to win you many games of cricket.”

“West Indies know these conditions well and they’ve exploited them to their advantage. They’ve played some really good stuff at times and made it very difficult. They’re fully deserving of winning the series.”

The final Test takes place at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in Saint Lucia, named after the fast-medium bowler who captained West Indies to back-to-back ICC World Twenty20 titles in 2012 and 2016. 

If the West Indies manage to beat the English, which is not a stretch of the imagination by any means, it will be their first whitewashing against England on home soil since 1986. The sides in ’86 featured such great names as Graham Gooch, Allan Lamb and Ian Botham for England and the same Viv Richards for the West Indies whose named ground Root’s side lost at days ago.

With just one Test left before the Ashes, England really needs to put on a show if they want any hope of regaining the trophy they lost so comprehensively last time around. The final test starts on the 9th February and will finish, barring another England collapse, on the 13th February.