West Indies head into the second Test against England starting here today, confident they can build on their impressive showing in the opening match in Antigua and come away with a victory.
Against all odds, West Indies managed to pull off a draw in the first Test at the Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium in Antigua last week, after being set 438 to win in just over four sessions.
The result, albeit a stalemate, has instilled momentum into the Caribbean side’s campaign and captain Denesh Ramdin believes they can now exploit whatever weaknesses exists in England’s game to their own advantage.
“I think the character and the way we fought that last day and not just the last day but throughout the Test match, was fantastic, the way the guys stood up in the bowling department and the batting department,” Ramdin said yesterday.
“Young Jermaine Blackwood in the first innings made a fantastic hundred and Jason Holder, a young player as well —not much Test matches behind his name —but he stood up and batted with a lot of maturity at the end with young Roachie (Kemar Roach).”
He continued: “They are two guys who want to do well for themselves and the team so they went out there and expressed themselves. Having said that, the senior players haven’t gotten any big runs as yet and I am looking forward to those guys getting runs.
“You will see a big difference in the totals that we score in the match coming here. I’m sure they are eager to get out there. The starts are there but it’s just for the guys to carry on from century to 150 and stuff like that.”
The Windies have made one change to their squad for the second Test, drafting in leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo for left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn who was ineffective during the Antigua contest.
Bishoo was dominant during the just concluded regional first-class season where he picked up 61 wickets – the second highest tally in the competition – at an outstanding average of 17.
The Guyanese played the last of his 11 Tests three years ago but Ramdin believes he can have an impact, especially as the game wears on.
“On a day four and day five pitch the spinner always comes into play and with his type of bowling, he has a lot of different types of deliveries in his armoury which will help the team,” Ramdin pointed out.
“So once he gets an opportunity tomorrow and over the next five days, he can do the job for the team which is to pick up wickets. He’s a bowler who likes to bowl and he will enjoy this opportunity.”
West Indies will depend heavily, though, on their faster bowlers all of whom were impressive during the first Test. The new ball pair of Jerome Taylor and Roach swung the ball to trouble the English batsmen while Holder was also steady as the third seamer.
While pleased with their outing, Ramdin said he wanted them to be still more clinical, especially in closing out innings.
“Every time you go out there and play and have a new ball in your hand as a fast bowler, as a captain you want them to take early wickets and they have done that so far,” he said.
“In this series I would like them to continue to do that and try and finish off the lower order. It’s very important to do that. You don’t want the lower order to come and create that big partnership and try and put you out of the game.”
As they proved in the opening Test, England will be more than a handful. Veteran right-hander Ian Bell and rookie left-hander Gary Ballance both got solid hundreds while Joe Root and Ben Stokes also gathered half centuries.
New ball bowlers James Anderson and Stuart Broad will lead the attack again with off-spinner Moeen Ali, drafted into the touring party following the Antigua Test, also expected to make the final XI.
Ramdin, however, urged his side to stay calm over the next five days, stressing that West Indies had the ability to upset the English once they remained relaxed.
“I think we need to be more patient at times and show more energy in the field. Sometimes we go all out when we can just relax a bit and enjoy the game, rather than fighting the game too much,” Ramdin stressed.
“I believe we are capable of winning Test matches and once we get one in this series under your belt it will be fantastic and put the English on the back foot.”
SQUAD – Denesh Ramdin (Captain) Kraigg Brathwaite, Devon Smith, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jermaine Blackwood, Jason Holder, Jerome Taylor, Kemar Roach, Devendra Bishoo, Carlos Brathwaite, Shai Hope, Shannon Gabriel.