LONDON – An upbeat West Indies will look to make history at a venue synonymous with memorable achievement when they take on England in the decisive third Test starting tomorrow morning at Lord’s.
Having already broken a 17-year winless streak in England by winning the second Test at Headingley last week, the Caribbean side now find themselves on the brink of their first series victory in England in nearly three decades.
In fact, the last West Indies series win came in 1988 when Sir Vivian Richards spearheaded a 4-0 success in a five-match rubber and while the accomplishment remains at the forefront of current captain Jason Holder’s mind, he said more important to his young side was execution of the basics and their team plans.
“It would be great to win a series in England but there’s a process towards going about that and we can’t focus on the end result – our focus is our process,” he told reporters today.
“I’ve spoken about consistency a lot on this tour so far and that’s the main objective for me. Once we are consistent and we do the small things well, that end result should be more or less in our favour.”
He continued: “As a team we always set out our team plans and I always urge the guys to stick to the team plans. Once we stick to the team plans, individuals tend to blossom – that’s the mindset we try to go into games with.”
That West Indies find themselves level in the series is a miracle in itself. They were written off – and justifiably so – after an amateurish performance in the first Test at Edgbaston which saw them lose 19 wickets on the third day to plunge to an innings and 209-run defeat.
However, they somehow mustered the courage to rebound, stunning England by five wickets at Headingley after chasing down 322 on the final day.
At the centre of the revival was a nonchalant 23-year-old, Shai Hope, who stroked majestic hundreds in either innings to become the first player to do so at the venue in 127 years of first class cricket there.
Holder said, however, that the focus over the next few days would be executing as a team and not necessarily depending on one individual.
“I try not to let the guys focus too much on themselves and most of the guys are not like that anyway,” he stressed.
“I think we are a close-knit unit, we’ve been building a great camaraderie in the dressing room and players are happy for each other’s success but the successes come from everybody buying into the team plan and so far on this tour we’ve been doing a hell of a job with that.
“And I mean as far back as the practice games, we’ve had really good preparation coming into this Test series. We didn’t have the best Test match at Edgbaston but we really rallied back at Headingley and showed a lot more consistency there and at the end of it all we won the Test match so coming into this game I don’t think the game plan will change.”
And West Indies will have a realistic chance of victory against an England side which displayed vulnerabilities at Headingley.
They were rolled over for 258 in their first innings and despite an improved showing in the second innings, their attack proved ineffective when West Indies chased on the final day.
Holder told reporters it was important the Windies put pressure on the inexperienced batsmen in the England line-up.
“One thing I spoke about at the beginning of this series was the inexperience of their top order. Obviously (Mark) Stoneman is now coming in, Dawid Malan is pretty fresh and obviously Tom Westley,” the all-rounder noted.
“I think the more we can exploit them and put pressure on (Alastair) Cook and (Joe) Root and (Ben) Stokes and these guys to make the bulk of the runs, the better off for us.
“Having said that, if we can dismiss Cook and Root early and put pressure on those inexperienced players to get runs it would put us in a very good position as well.”
He added: “Cricket must be played the way it is supposed to be played and that’s going out with the new ball, taking new ball wickets and getting into England’s middle order.”
The conditions at Lord’s are not expected to offer the type of assistance to bowlers that Headingley did. The home of cricket has become a venue that offers little in the way of surface moisture and nothing beyond conventional carry for quick bowlers. However, in keeping with tradition Lord’s is still a ground where overhead conditions can influence the sideways movement of the ball. The forecast for the coming week is a mix of cloudy conditions and rain, but plenty runs should be on offer for those willing to battle for them. (CMC)
ENGLAND – Joe Root (captain), Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley, Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Toby Roland-Jones, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
WEST INDIES – (likely) Jason Holder (captain), Kraigg Brathwaite, Devendra Bishoo, Jermaine Blackwood, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Kyle Hope, Shai Hope, Kieran Powell, Kemar Roach.