“There is really no member of the batting unit that should cause the Englishmen sleepless nights. Hope and Brathwaite had unbelievable games at Headingly during the last visit but neither have shown anything approaching that level of proficiency since. Many in the Caribbean who hoped that performance would have lifted Hope, especially, to a new, elite level have been disappointed”
It appears to be a widely held view that the West Indies bowling attack that will line up against England in three Tests this summer will give a good account of itself. There is a pace revival occurring in the Caribbean and the squad is well staffed with fast bowlers of proven quality, such as Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach, along with youngsters full of pace and promise, such as Alzarri Joseph, Chemar Holder and Odane Thomas.
But England’s bowling unit is packed with firepower too. There is the quality of highly skilled veterans, Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad, and then there is the prohibitive pace of Mark Wood and Jofra Archer. Runs will surely not be easy to come by, especially with the West Indies brandishing a relatively unproven batting line up.
The outcome of the series, therefore, is likely to rest on this: Will the West indies be able to get enough out of their batsmen to be competitive?
How the likes of Kraig Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shai Hope, Shamar Brooks, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, and Jason Holder to answer this question will determine the outcome of the series. They, therefore, have their task cut out. Anderson and Broad are no joke in home conditions. Additionally, Archer and Wood might be even more unpleasant to face if they are able to work up the kind of foreboding pace that both are capable of. Indeed, the last time both sides locked horns, the last Test of their 2019 series in St. Lucia, the West Indies were overwhelmed by Mark Wood’s pace (five for 41 off 8.2 overs) and lost by all of 232 runs.
The popular talking point is that the West Indies won the 2019 series on the back of their fast-bowling might. This is true. But it is true only to a certain point, as the West Indies batsmen scored some runs too.
Led by Kemar Roach, the four-pronged attack succeeded in almost closing the door against any possibility England victory in Barbados by routing them for 77 in the first innings. But that door was nailed shut by a stroke-filled 295-run partnership by Holder and Dowrich, one which led to a second-innings declaration at 415 for 6 and victory by all of 381 runs.
In the second Test, it took restrained performances from the West Indies’ top four, and Darren Bravo in particular, who stayed all of 216 balls for 50 runs, to knock out what proved to be a formidable first-innings total of 306 on a tricky North Sound surface. The visitors could only manage 187 and 132, and lost by 10 wickets.
Having to face the England bowlers in their own conditions means the Caribbean batsmen will have a more trying task this series.
Their batting -made even more brittle by the absence of Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo, who, along with allrounder Keemo Paul, chose not to tour in the midst of the Coronavirus pandemic — will be mightily challenged.
Their job, which is to get enough runs on the board to allow their bowlers a reasonable chance of taking 20 wickets, will require focus and effort and skill. And if their recent record is an indication of how they’ll do, then Caribbean fans have a fair bit to worry about.
The top order has been inconsistent. Against India, in the Caribbean last year the top order was repeatedly undermined by JaspritBumrah, in particular, and the Indian pace attack. Even when the West Indies confronted Afghanistan in Lucknow they were quickly 34 for 2 before the early damage was repaired by Campbell, who made 55 and Shamar Brooks, who scored his maiden test century. Even so, they still could only eke out a total of 277.
Barbadian opener Brathwaite has been a fixture for a while, but he has been experiencing such a lean period lately that it is only a lack of reasonable options that are keeping him in the side. Shamar Brooks scored a hundred in his last Test, but then went on to have a forgettable first-class season, and, from all indications, lacks good form at the moment despite his second-innings 66 in the first practice game.
There is really no member of the batting unit that should cause the Englishmen sleepless nights. Hope and Brathwaite had unbelievable games at Headingly during the last visit but neither has shown anything approaching that level of proficiency since. Many in the Caribbean who hoped that performance would have lifted Hope, especially, to a new, elite level have been disappointed.
West Indies captain Jason Holder put the English bowlers to the sword with his unbeaten 202 in the first Test of the 2019 series, but his form and fitness have been something a mystery lately, fueled by his limited participation in the practice games.
If anything, the practice games reinforced the concern that the visitors’ batting may not be up to scratch. The likely first Test line up, mostly placed on one side, did not really impress as a unit and was even bungled out for 178 in the second game.
Coach Roddy Estwick, in fact, having witnessed the practice games up close, expressed some dissatisfaction with the performance of the top batsmen. That is the main worry of Caribbean cricket fans as their team takes on the Englishmen. But if they can somehow find a way to get some runs on the board, then they might well surprise the Englishmen again.