ST JOHN’S, Antigua – Driven by a crushing victory inside four days in the opening Test in Bridgetown, West Indies will chase a long-awaited major series win when they clash with England in the pivotal second Test starting in Antigua tomorrow.
No one could have foreseen the home side’s commanding performance at Kensington Oval which left the pre-series favourites shell-shocked and handed the Windies the upper hand in the three-Test rubber.
In fact, the series was supposed to be another whitewash with the home and visiting pundits having written the Windies off before a ball was bowled, especially with the build-up to the opening Test mired in controversy over the appointment of Englishman Richard Pybus as interim head coach.
Last weekend’s victory completely transformed the narrative, with the Windies now in with a real chance of clinching their first series win over a higher-ranked side, since they swept New Zealand in the Caribbean seven years ago.
However, skipper Jason Holder told reporters today that his side had already put last weekend’s heroics behind them and were aware they had to start from scratch in order to taste success again over the coming days.
“Most of the guys are pretty focused, they’re really hungry. We understood what we did in the last game but that’s gone – I said that to the guys,” Holder said.
“That game is history, it’s just a matter for us to move on and understand what we need to do to continue being consistent. I always speak about consistency in the dressing room and I think in order to be consistent, we’ve got to be hitting all three departments every time we step on the field.”
West Indies were the epitome of consistency during the opening Test, dominating all aspects and every day of the affair.
After making 289 in their first innings, they produced a stunning performance with the ball to bundle the visitors out for a venue-low 77. Opting not to enforce the follow-on, they piled up 415 for six declared in their second time at the crease, with Holder smiting an extraordinary unbeaten 202 from only 229 deliveries.
England then folded for 246 in pursuit of 628, after being 134 for two at lunch on the fourth day.
“I’ve tried to focus more on what we need to do and we just need to be consistent. It’s just a matter of us to continue to build that in the side,” Holder continued.
“We have seen glimpses that this team can perform and beat the top sides in the world and we’ve had personal success so it’s good to see we’re bringing it a bit more together as a side, and hopefully we can continue in that vein and the guys can continue to be hungry for success.”
West Indies depended heavily on Roston Chase’s part-time off-spin to earn them victory, with the 26-year-old snaring a record eight-wicket haul in the second innings.
His performance complemented Kemar Roach’s stellar five-wicket haul in the first innings, and Holder pointed to the balance of the Windies attack as key to any success.
“Sometimes up front we expect the fast bowlers to do the bulk of the work in the first innings. As the pitch becomes it bit more worn and breaks up, our spinners can come into effect,” said Holder.
“It was really good to see even though our seamers didn’t get any wickets in the second innings that we were able to build pressure from one end and allow Roston to really express himself as things were happening for him.”
West Indies have had mixed results at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground. In their last outing there, they thrashed Bangladesh by innings last July but lost to India by an innings two years prior.
When they last met England here four years ago, the match finished in a tense draw, with Holder hitting his maiden Test hundred to save the game.
Holder said he was not expecting any surprises from the pitch.
“The last time we played here it was a pretty good wicket against Bangladesh although the game didn’t go the distance, it was still pretty good,” Holder noted.
“The Test match before that against India was also a pretty good wicket so I don’t expect anything different. There’s some grass on the wicket which is encouraging. Hopefully, it holds together and it can be a good cricket wicket.”
SQUADS: ENGLAND – Joe Root (captain), Rory Burns, Joe Denly, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Ben Foakes, Sam Curran, Stuart Broad, Jimmy Anderson, Jack Leach.
WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Oshane Thomas, Jomel Warrican.