“West Indies no longer seem to mere pushovers in Tests. They have an able fast bowling attack, two useful spinners, a valiant lower middle-order, some gutsy batsmen and Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite leading the way from the top”
It’s not every day that Windies beat a major Test nation. In fact, the last time they beat Sri Lanka in a Test was a decade ago, at the very same ground. Even with Sri Lanka’s aura vanishing with the retirements of some stalwart players, they were favourites ahead of the series against a Windies side on an upswing.
It took 154 overs, a valiant hundred and an inspired right from their tail to show that the hosts meant business. Windies lost their openers early but found the fight in the form of Shai Hope and Roston Chase. The duo got starts but Windies needed more than starts to prove their point. They needed a win. That wasn’t coming until they put up runs on the board.
With their backs against the wall, Shame Dowrich led Windies’ fight with a brilliant hundred, playing out a gargantuan 325 balls in a show of extreme perseverance and tenacity. Surprisingly, he found support. Jason Holder and Devendra Bishoo stood rock-like between Lanka and wickets as West Indies scaled the elusive 400 run mark.
Often, their bowling and batting haven’t clicked together. When their batsmen fire, their bowlers tend to go awry. But this wasn’t one of those Tests. Shannon Gabriel, Jason Holder, Miguel Cummins and Kemar Roach formed a potent seam bowling attack and reduced Lanka to tatters.
With a massive first innings lead, Windies decided to bat a second time to further dent Lanka. If things were to go wrong for the hosts, it had to be right then. It didn’t. Led by Kieron Powell, Windies racked up a huge lead and sent Lanka to save the Test or chase down the target on a deteriorating surface.
The venom that underlined Windies’ bowling performance in the first innings was surprisingly missing this time around. Kusal Mendis cracked a hundred and although they lost a few, Sri Lanka oozed the confidence that they could chase this down on day 5.
This is where Windies’ overall development as a Test side comes to the fore. With their mainstay bowlers struggling a touch, Roston Chase and Devendra Bishoo took charge. The surface was taking turn and Windies had the right personnel to lead the charge.
Bowling Lanka out comfortably, Windies scampered home by 226 runs to register a massive victory. Several things stand out in Windies’ confidence-boosting performance at Port Of Spain. The fight of their lower order isn’t new. Jason Holder and Shane Dowrich have often ushered the tail to put up a resistance.
“Our lower order has been one of the most consistent lower orders in world cricket for the last two or three years. I always back the guys to come in and put up a partnership and put up a fight. It really started with the partnership that Shane and I had, and then Devendra came in and played an outstanding knock. Not only did he take time out of the game, he scored runs as well. That not only took time out of the game, it wore down the Sri Lankan bowlers and made it tough for them. I was always backing our guys to get us up to a really good score,” Holder had said after the match as revealed by ESPNcricinfo.
The fact that the hosts declared their innings in the first outing was in itself a rare incident. The last time West Indies had done that was way back in 2014. When the repeated the same in the second innings, it broke a long-standing record. The last time West Indies had declared both their innings’ was way back in 1985 against New Zealand.
The 90, 102 and 75 run partnerships of Shane Dowrich with Holder, Bishoo and Roach turned out to be pivotal to Windies getting an early break in the Test. This isn’t uncharacteristic of them in recent times but they will hope their top order contribute more to avoid the lower middle-order coming in with huge pressure on them.
“We had a lot of time to sit back and reflect on how the last year ended,” Holder said. “To start this series the way we’ve started it is quite pleasing. Knowing that in the past we’ve lost at the start of the series and were playing catch-up cricket, it was good to come out of the gates on a winning note.”
West Indies no longer seem to mere pushovers in Tests. They have an able fast bowling attack, two useful spinners, a valiant lower middle-order, some gutsy batsmen and Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite leading the way from the top. The consistency of the two aforementioned will play a huge role in deciding how often West Indies can challenge the top nations in Tests. For now, they will head to Gros Islet for the second Test knowing that they are favourites to seal the series.