Burden on James Anderson and Ben Stokes leaves England exposed

James Anderson was made to toil Getty Images

At least with batting collapses the pain is over quickly. At least with batting collapses, the dismissed batsman can escape to the dressing room to lick their wounds and nurse their regrets in private.

There's no hiding place for bowlers. No hiding place in the field. So while England's suffering on the third day might not have been dramatic as their suffering on the second, it was every bit as brutal.

Here England's pain was endless. As the runs and records mounted - never before have England conceded such a large seventh-wicket stand, never had they conceded such a high score to a No. 8 batsman and never had they been hit for eight sixes in an innings by a West Indies player - the holes in the England team and the errors in their selections were laid bare. This was torturous and inexorable.

It is understandable in such circumstances that Joe Root should rely on James Anderson and Ben Stokes. They are, by a distance, his most reliable bowlers. So it was not surprising that he turned to them when he needed a wicket, when he needed control and when he didn't know what else to do.

But he has to look after them. And the sight of them starting new spells long after West Indies' lead passed 500 was worrying. By the time he took his fourth new ball in two-and-a-half days, Anderson was reduced to bowling in the mid-70s mph. And while Stokes' pace and energy remained high - really, you couldn't fault either man for their efforts - you wondered at what cost: he is as precious an asset as England possess; it would be a mistake to ask him to carry too onerous a burden.

The game, by that stage, was gone and the damage limitation should have been done by the spinners and support bowlers. Instead Anderson bowled 48 overs in the match and Stokes 50.3; only the second time in his career he had bowled 50 in a Test. By the end, they had spent 14-and-a-half hours in the field, broken only by England's own two-and-a-half hour innings.

Perhaps history offers us a lesson here. In the first year or two of the 1980s, Ian Botham - as a swing bowler not so different to Anderson and as an allrounder not so different to Stokes - found himself bowling in a game against Oxford University. He should never have been required to do so but, at some stage during it, he sustained a back injury. Some believe he was never quite the same again.

The decision to bowl Anderson and Stokes for long might also have encouraged Holder to bat on. If he could exhaust England's best bowlers it was not impossible he could rule them out of the rest of the series and he later admitted he saw a chance to "grind them down and keep them out in the heat".

It is, remember, just six days until the start of the second Test. Anderson is 36 and managing a shoulder problem that may well be causing him more pain than he makes out. Stokes, too, has undergone an operation on his left knee and suffers from ongoing back pain. There was no game at stake here; no hope that a magical spell could make the difference.

Long before the end of West Indies' second innings, factory-farmed chickens were getting together and muttering about the appalling conditions in which Anderson and Stokes are expected to work. Asking them to bowl in these conditions is like asking Picasso to pop round and paint your bathroom ceiling; like using a Ferrari to deliver rubble to the dump; like using Pegasus as a pit pony.

Part of Root's problem was the performance of his other bowlers. Sam Curran, for all his youthful promise, is not a Test opening bowler at this stage of his career. Perhaps, one day, he may be. But at present he is too reliant on swing and not quite able to compensate with control or other skills. He may well have a role to play in a four-man seam attack but, as one of three, he leaves too much required of his colleagues.

The performance of the spinners was more worrying. They should have taken the main bowling workload, but Root didn't seem to feel he could trust either of them. Moeen Ali's first over of the day saw Holder thrash him for three successive boundaries, while Adil Rashid struggled with both his length and his pace in conceding nearly seven an over including five sixes. For him to bowl only nine overs in the innings - fewer than Root - is a damning indictment of his performance and the confidence the captain had in him.

Rashid didn't impress in the field, either, with Trevor Bayliss seen slapping his leg in frustration after a misfield gave away a single. It will be a surprise if he plays in Antigua.

So it was understandable that Root didn't trust some of his bowlers much. But he was party to the decision to pick two spinners. And he was party to the decision to prefer the wicket-taking potential of Rashid to the reliability of Jack Leach. He was also party to the decision to pick a left-arm swing bowler instead of a hit-the-deck seamer. In asking Stokes and Anderson to carry so much of the burden, he was tacitly admitting he and the other selectors had erred.

There were some encouraging moments for England. Even towards the end, Jos Buttler and Root pulled off fine stops in the field. After every wicketless over, Anderson was applauded back to his position on the boundary by spectators who recognised his hard work. And despite his own disappointments, Curran made some diving stops on the boundary to save a run or two. There's no faulting the spirit or the efforts. The opening batsmen started well, too. The weekend brings them opportunity.

And there, perhaps, is the mitigation for England. For this pitch that looked so troublesome when 18 wickets fell on day two, suddenly appeared becalmed. Local knowledge suggests it may remain becalmed for much of day four, too, though some deterioration is likely on day five. It will be interesting to see if West Indies bowlers - faster or taller though most of them are - will be able to coax any more life out of it.

But days like this expose holes. And West Indies have found a few in this England side.