WEST INDIES (WI) captain Jason Holder believes there’s still all to play for when the second of three-Test match series bowls off, on Thursday, at Old Trafford in Manchester.
At Wednesday’s pre-match press conference, the WI skipper openly disagreed with a journalist who dubbed a possible series win by the men in maroon “unbelievable.” Holder reminded those present of England’s world-class cricketing status and their ability to bring an amplified competitive stance when the second Test gets under way.
Although the regional squad produced a historic match-winning performance against the hosts in the opener, Holder declared the series wide open, but not impossible to secure to an outright WI victory.
“I’m not sure I like the word you used in terms of unbelievable. The series is wide open. There’s still ten days of cricket left. England is a very good cricket team so we’ve got our work cut out…We won’t get too far ahead of ourselves. We’re here to win this series. We’ve only got control of the cricket we play,” he said.
Holder admitted that building a strong first-innings performance is the primary step towards laying a stern competitive foundation against the hosts. “The first innings really sets the game up and puts you in a position of security. If you don’t play well in the first innings you’re then made to play catch-up. It’s not impossible to play catch-up but you don’t want to. We want to post a really good first innings total, restrict the opposition to a manageable total and we work from there deeper into the Test match. We’re playing a Test match and want to start it well, whether ball or bat in hand,” he added.
Holder hinted there were no changes made to the squad which represented during the first Test. England, however, have welcomed the return of talismanic batsman and captain Joe Root, who is expected to play a crucial role within the host team. He replaced Joe Denly. The WI pacer was well aware of Root’s competitive threat with the bat but remains optimistic his team has what it takes to unearth England’s boost in their batting line-up. Having previously been ranked the best Test batsman, Root was also part of the England squad that won the 2019 Cricket World Cup.
“Having Joe come back in for England is an added boost, a world-class player. If we’re going to win a series here (in England) we’ve got our work cut out.
We’ve got to play solid cricket, not only for one game. We’ve got to back it up. This is the second Test match that has come. All to play for in this second one,” said the six-footer Bajan. Whether Root’s return serves as a significant morale booster for the hosts, Holder remains committed to the cause. “Whenever we start a series, we want to win it. Winning the first Test match is just one piece of the puzzle. We’ve got two other games to play. We’re starting fresh with ten solid days of cricket. We won one game but that doesn’t change anything for us and our strategies into executing our team plans,” he added.
Holder echoed similar sentiments shared by team coach Phil Simmons on Tuesday, who requested improved performances with the bat heading into the second Test. During the first match, no WI batsman was able to secure a centurion knock over the five days’ play.
Even though opener Kraigg Braithwaite (65) and Shane Dowrich (61) had fine contributions in their first innings and were backed up by Jermaine Blackwood’s (95) second innings stance, both Holder and Simmons urged batsmen to maintain consistency.
“We’re still yet to get a hundred off the bat. We had a few starts, got a few half-centuries. So it’s just more for the batters to convert a few more starts like we got in the first Test so they can go on to get a big score. I think the bowling has been very solid. I’ve asked the bowlers to remain patient and be consistent. We put down one or two chances in the fielding so we can definitely brush up on that,” he stated.
Since their opening win, cricket historians and statisticians have been comparing the new-look WI team to those of past generations. These comparisons are being rejected by the team captain who has chosen to focus solely on approaching the second Test meeting, one day at a time.
“Each individual has a role in the team and it’s more or less us, focusing on our individual roles to bring together a strong collective effort. We don’t hear the noise on the outside. We’re just focusing on what we need to do to win the series,” said Holder.
Before the start of the series, WI were housed at Old Trafford and played two intra-team warm-up matches there before heading to Southampton for the first Test. The WI skipper, however, does not believe his team holds an advantage, having played there recently.
He still thinks England may hold the upper-hand at the venue and have a slight advantage with regards to their acclimatization of the current weather conditions.
The pitch at Old Trafford has been under covers since for the past two days due to intermittent rainfall. Since the team’s return to Old Trafford they have yet to get a chance to view the pitch.
“Most of these English players have played here more than us so I think we’re still in their backyard. It’s good that we had a couple weeks here to prepare. It’s still a level playing field when cricket starts (tomorrow). I think England still has the nudge as they know the conditions better than we do,” he added.
Holder concluded, “It’s on the day, how well you adapt to certain scenarios and passages of play in the game. You just got to make sure you cover your bases in terms of preparation and hopefully, that transcends into the actual match on the day. You have to switch on to match-mode where you’re then faced with different scenarios and propositions as to how the game will go.”