BIRMINGHAM: Inexperienced West Indies will hope to silence their many detractors when they clash with a dominant England in the historic day/night opening Test at Edgbaston here today, in what is likely to be their sternest challenge in recent times.
Written off long before arriving here for the three-Test series, the Caribbean side are expected to be put under intense pressure from an England squad still buoyant from their emphatic series win over South Africa last month.
Further, the Windies have not won a Test here in 17 years and are also without a series win in nearly three decades, since the incomparable Sir Vivian Richards presided over a 3-1 victory in 1988.
Captain Jason Holder, on his first tour of England since taking over the helm of the side two years ago, told reporters here yesterday that despite being underdogs, he had been boosted by his side’s form in the recent First Class tour matches.
“We’re obviously huge underdogs. England are a very good cricket team. They’ve played some very good cricket and a number of their players are in good form,” Holder said.
“And likewise for us, we’ve had a pretty decent year so far in Test cricket – we’ve won one Test game so far and we’ve lost two. In that last series against Pakistan, I felt there was significant improvement. We had guys who showed progress and improvement and showing signs they can compete here at Test level.
“For us, we’ve just been focusing on ourselves primarily and trying to nail down our processes, and I think we have been doing that in the warm-up games so far, so we only hope that can transcend into the Test series.”
West Indies have showed signs of form in the tour matches, with four batsmen – Kyle Hope, Shai Hope, Roston Chase and Kieran Powell – all getting hundreds in the drawn game against Derbyshire last week. Chase, in particular, has been outstanding with scores over fifty in his four innings on tour while Jermaine Blackwood has also been among the runs.
Seamer Kemar Roach, on his first Test tour in nearly two years following a spell on the sidelines due to injury and loss of form, started the tour with a five-wicket haul against Essex while rookie 20-year-old speedster Alzarri Joseph shone with a four-wicket haul against Kent.
Pacer Holder, who bowled well in the Derbyshire day/night game, said it was important the Windies brought all the facets of their game together, especially since they would be playing under lights with the pink ball. “I think our bowling has really carried us throughout the last few Test matches. We’ve got people like Shannon Gabriel who has had a pretty decent year, myself I haven’t been doing to badly,” he pointed out.
“We’ve got Miguel Cummins, young Alzarri Joseph – Kemar Roach is actually showing some very, very good form so I’m really confident in our bowling.
“It’s just for our batsmen to make some runs. We’ve struggled in the past primarily with our batting but so far on this tour we’ve been doing really well so I’m expecting things from the batsmen.”
He added: “The mood is good. We have two solid weeks of preparation here in England. I felt these three tour games were of good benefit to us. We got a chance to get acclimatised, obviously (got) a chance to see how the pink ball operates here in England and obviously the red ball so it was a pretty good exercise in the last two weeks.”
The Windies enter the series with a less than stellar recent record, with just three wins in their last 23 Tests and without a Test series win in three years.
In fact, the last time West Indies beat a side ranked higher was in 2012 when they secured a 2-0 series win over New Zealand in the Caribbean. The Test, the first to be played with the pink ball in England, bowls off at 2 pm (9 am Eastern Caribbean time).