Consistency is key as 2nd Test starts tomorrow
By Sean Devers
With the stressful Covid-19 Virus present in the West Indian Islands and Guyana, where the frustrating ‘never ending’ Elections’ declaration process is on-going, the West Indies’ 4-wicket win over England in the opening Test match in England on Sunday have brought back smiles to the faces of many West Indians.
Such is the power of sports to lift people’s spirits in times of gloom, especially cricket for West Indians.
This was the first time since 2007 when they won the opening Test in South Africa, has the West Indies beaten a team ranked higher than them in the first Test of a series.
It was only the third time since then that they had won an overseas Test Match against a team ranked higher than them after victories over Pakistan and England in the second Test of their 2017 tour of England.
They played excellent ‘team cricket’ which everyone chipping in with useful contributions to outplay their former Colonial Masters.
Jason Holder showed why he is ranked ICC’s number one All-Rounder in Test Cricket with calm and level-headed leadership taking 6-42 in England’s first innings, while eventual Man-of-the-Match Shannon Gabriel took the other four scalps and followed up with 5-75 in the second innings.
Alzarri Joseph bowled with plenty of pace and Kemar Roach, who operated without luck, offered refreshing support as the Windies four-prang pace attack; although not as menacing as the 1980s counterparts, looked threatening on a track which was generally good for batting.
Kraigg Braithwaite scored 65 and along with John Campbell the only left-hander in the side, build a fairly solid 43-run foundation, while Shamarh Brooks (39), Shane Dowrich (61) and Joseph (18) were able to rally the tourists to 318 and a lead of 115.
In their second innings, set 200 for only their third win in England in 25 years, West Indies wobbled to 27-3 (with Campbell retired hurt after being struck on his toe from Bajan born Archer) as none of the four top order batsmen reaching double figures.
Royston Chase (37), Dowrich (20) and Holder (14*) supported Jermaine Blackwood who made a fantastic 95 from close to four hours at the crease before, like in the first innings, his uppish off drive was taken at mid-off.
But although he fell with victory 11 runs away, his job was almost completed and will know that his place in the next Test is assured.
There were discussions regarding the selection of Blackwood, who had scored a double century in his last innings against the Leewards in the West Indies First-Class tournament where the standard is not that high.
The other canidate was the only specialist spinner in the 15-man squad, Rakeem Cornwall, who would have also given the batting depth.
But Blackwood was chosen and despite him giving his wicket away with a poor shot in the first innings, his match winning second innings knock justified the faith shown in him by Coach Phil Simmons and the other tour selectors.
The victory, unexpected by most cricket pundits, was due to team work, self-belief, commitment, dedication and consistent cricket throughout the match.
Maybe the 14-day quarantine and not being allowed to leave the ‘bubble’ after the day’s play inadvertently worked to the West Indies advantage.
The team had a longer time to get acclimatised to the English conditions and ‘Gel’ as a team resulting in the players being well rested and ready to go without the adverse effects of‘night dew’ from clubbing which would have been normal for many players if the Pandemic was not a threat.
West Indies will head into the next match with just three days to replenish themselves but very high in confidence of winning their first series in England in 32 years and retaining the Wisden Trophy.
They will know that the only way that coveted Trophy, which was first contested for in the 1963 series, will remain in England is if the host win both of the remaining matches which will be hard but certainly not impossible.
There are still a few areas of concern for the West Indies’ batting, especially the top four and the form of Shai Hope who scored twin hundreds when West Indies won their only Test in 2017.
They would also hope for a better conversion rate from good starts of 20s and 30s into big fifties and at least two batsmen going on the score centuries.
The catching will also be a minor worry but not getting complacent, remaining consistent, not taking their foot off the gas and how Holder manages his pacers in the three back-to-back Tests, will be keys to a rare overseas series win.
The Pitch at Old Trafford where the remaining matches will be played should offer a bit more help to the spinners at this time of the year and it will be interesting to see if Campbell is not fully recovered, whether Cornwall or a specialist batman will replace him.
Whatever is the outcome of this series, once the West Indies continues to show the type of fight and passion they did in the opening Test, West Indians, in and outside of the Region should be satisfied.
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