West Indies v Zimbabwe, 1st Test, Barbados…West Indies seek to extend rare winning run
ESPNcricinfo – The last time West Indies won five Tests in a row was back in the late 80s, when they were still the reigning kings of world cricket. Viv Richards was the captain, leading a side strewn with legends to comprehensive series victories in England and Australia. West Indies have fallen so far from those peaks that in the seven years Prior to the start of their home season last year, they had been victorious in only five Tests.
Through a quirk of scheduling that pitted them against some relatively lightweight opposition, West Indies are currently on a four-Test winning streak, with two matches against the Test irregulars Zimbabwe coming up.
The Kensington Oval was a fortress for West Indies for much of the 20th century but, although the record has dimmed in recent years, Darren Sammy’s experienced side will be confident of extending their successful stretch to six games.
While the home side chase some impressive numbers, for Zimbabwe the chance to play Test cricket is a rarity. They haven’t played a five-day game since they were trounced in Napier by an innings-and-301-runs by New Zealand more than a year ago. This will only be their fifth Test since ending their six-year exile from the longest version of the game in 2011. Besides the crippling shortage of experience, they will be up against unfamiliar conditions as well, in what will be their first Test in the Caribbean since 2000. Additionally, they are without the assuring presence of two Zimbabwe stalwarts from the coaching set-up, Grant Flower and Heath Streak.
Players to watch
In his second coming, Marlon Samuels has quickly became West Indies’ most influential batsman across formats. He was missing in the limited-overs leg of the series as he completed his recovery from the eye injury he suffered in the Big Bash. His first match since early January was the tour game against the Zimbabweans last week and he hit his stride with a brisk 55. He’s in a rich vein of form in Tests, having scored six half-centuries and three hundreds in his past nine matches.
Brendan Taylor is among Zimbabwe’s most important batsmen, but he hasn’t quite managed to find his form in this series so far. A string of single-digit scores in the limited-overs matches meant he hasn’t been able to carry the touch that made him one of the standout players in the Bangladesh Premier League last month.
The West Indies batting is slowly beginning to acquire a settled look, with three senior batsmen in the top five and two promising youngsters in Kieran Powell and Darren Bravo as the other two specialists. One of their decisions to be made will be whether to play two specialist spinners, or to go in with one slow bowler and the part-time offerings of Narsingh Deonarine as back-up.