LONDON – Finding the right tempo will be key to West Indies clawing their way back into the five-match One-Day International series against England, head coach Stuart Law said today ahead of the pivotal fourth encounter at the Oval tomorrow.
The Australian said the Windies were trapped between the Test and Twenty20 formats at the moment and were having difficulty determining the correct pace of the innings.
As a result, they trail 2-0 in the series, having lost the opener at Old Trafford last Tuesday by seven wickets and the third match in Bristol three days ago by 124 runs. The second fixture at Trent Bridge was rained off last Thursday after only 14 deliveries.
“We’re not quite playing at the tempo that suits one-day cricket. We’re caught between Test cricket and T20 cricket,” Law told reporters here.
“Of course we’re very good at T20 cricket and we’re ever improving in the Test match arena. This is the arena we need to make sure we start grabbing hold of and start understanding, particularly with what we’ve got coming up early next year.”
Pointing to last Sunday’s contest as a case in point, Law said the Caribbean side had failed to pace the run chase properly and had been bowled out with way too many overs remaining.
Set a difficult 370 for victory following Moeen Ali’s swift 102 off 57 balls, West Indies buckled for 245 at the start of the 40th over, despite Chris Gayle’s top score of 94 off 78 deliveries.
Law underscored the value of having key wickets in hand, especially heading into the final stages of the innings.
“We’re either going too hard too early and not spacing it out over a longer period of time. It was pretty evident the other night we got bowled out with 11 overs to go,” Law explained.
“Our tempo was pretty good in certain aspects but we need to improve. We need to make sure we have two set batsmen going into those last 10-15 overs. If we’ve got that we can be even more destructive.”
The middle overs have become a phase where West Indies have tended to become stagnant. Numbers expose this weakness. Since the 2015 World Cup, West Indies’ average run rate in the middle overs has been 4.98, which is the lowest among all top-eight ranked teams. It has not improved in 2017: a run rate of 4.64 is again the lowest in the middle-overs phase.
Pacing an innings has acquired a new meaning, with the best ODI teams scoring at about six runs an over in the middle period, with at least one top-order batsman playing deep into the innings. Virat Kohli, David Warner, Steven Smith, Kane Williamson and Hashim Amla have consistently set the tempo for their respective middle and lower-middle orders to capitalise upon in the death overs.
Unfortunately for the West Indies, no top-order batsman has shown the patience and the capability to bat longer. West Indies batsmen have scored just five centuries since the 2015 World Cup in 34 matches, which again is the least among the major teams.
West Indies have been underwhelming in the two completed matches so far. Only veteran Gayle – playing his first ODI series in two years – has managed a half-century while the bowlers have all gone for runs.
It has meant that England have had things largely their way and victory on Wednesday would see them to their sixth ODI series win over the Windies in the last 10 years.
However, Law remained hopeful West Indies could turn their fortunes around, pointing out the importance of the batting group supporting the in-form Gayle.
“There are some good signs. I thought even though Moeen Ali had a [blast] the other day I thought Miguel Cummins bowled very well taking three wickets,” Law said.
“With the bat you’re seeing glimpses of what Shai Hope can do in white ball cricket. Chris Gayle obviously has a fantastic record and is an imposing character on a cricket field. We just need a little bit more from the rest of our top order and a little bit smarter batting through that middle period.
“Once we get that, we’ve got the power to drive it home in the last 10-15 overs.”
England will be without the pair of Ben Stokes and Alex Hales, both of whom are assisting police with investigations following a fracas in a Bristol nightclub last Sunday.
ENGLAND – Eoin Morgan (captain), Jonny Bairstow, Jason Roy, Joe Root, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Liam Plunkett, David Willey, Adil Rashid, Tom Curran, Jake Ball.
WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Jason Mohammed, Sunil Ambris, Devendra Bishoo, Miguel Cummins, Chris Gayle, Kyle Hope, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Evin Lewis, Ashley Nurse, Rovman Powell, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Kesrick Williams.