WEST INDIES coach Phil Simmons is optimistic the regional squad can remove England’s two remaining wickets in Sunday’s morning session and follow-up with a repeat display of their first innings batting performance to grab a possible victory on the final day of the first official Test match since March.
The hosts closed the penultimate day’s play on 284 for eight with a lead of 170 runs.
Simmons expressed his enthusiasm after the penultimate day’s action during the post-match press conference.
“We got to get the two wickets and whatever is front of us so we can have a day to bat. If we bat for five hours tomorrow to chase 180 or 190 then it’s a normal batting day. It’s not a chase where you have to go at the bowling. We hope that whatever happens in the morning, whatever roller is used, helps to flatten out the wicket so we can get a good start,” said the former WI cricketer.
He added, “I think the confidence and attitude towards batting in the first innings is going to be a huge plus for us when we bat in second innings. It’s going to be the same attitude that we need to chase it (target). I have confidence in that.”
Although the English top-order proved to be a challenge, Simmons was impressed with the composure displayed by his bowling attack, particularly those of skipper Jason Holder, Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph.
He lauded the bowlers’ persistence after enduring a tough morning against the likes of Zak Crawley (76), Dom Sibley (50) and England captain Ben Stokes (46). Following the timely dismissal of Stokes by Holder, the next four wickets fell for just 35 runs.
“We’ve been fighting all day. Stokes and Zack started to take the bowling apart but the persistence of Jason and then Alzarri’s spell was huge. On the back of what Jason did, he came and got a couple wickets soon after. It’s commendable the way how they stuck to it.
“It’s been a special day for them. It was difficult in the morning, even in between lunch and tea, but in the evening they came up trumps because they persisted. The patience we exhibited has been something that we have been asking for, for a while, and today it showed. We bore the fruit of that in the evening session. They stuck to their task.”
The WI coach also credited Holder’s leadership to rotate his bowlers, a decision which paid dividends in the second half of the day’s play. Simmons was also pleased with Gabriel’s return to Test cricket, after bouncing back after an ankle injury, and Joseph’s drive to penetrate the English batting line-up.
“It shows his (Gabriel) desire to play for the WI. Coming back from ankle surgery and doing all the hard work he’s done even during the lockdown in Trinidad, he was finding ways to train and get fit for this series.
“It’s great to see him back on the park and I’m sure Jason and Roach (Kemar) are happy to have him as an opening partner. Alzarri is coming up with them, he’s just started and it’s great to see the combination and how they’re working together. It’s showing and it’s improving,” Simmons stated.
With regards to Holder’s commendable captaincy, Simmons declared, “It’s what he does. He comes back and puts in the brief spells for his team and that’s the way he leads his team. I didn’t expect anything different. He wanted to get that breakthrough for his team. Don’t expect anything different from him. That’s the qualities he brings to the team.”