KINGSTON, Jamaica – Phlegmatic captain Kraigg Brathwaite has urged calm from his players ahead of Friday’s start of the second Test, as West Indies take aim at their first Test series win over Pakistan in 21 years.
A nail-biting one-wicket win late on last Sunday’s fourth day handed the home side the series lead and after over two decades of drought against the Asian side, West Indies now find themselves within touching distance of a series success.
Aware, however, that West Indies were also not at their best in the opener, Brathwaite said his side needed to be switched on in all areas in the coming days, if they were to get the better of Pakistan.
“I think the key is to stay calm and be disciplined,” Brathwaite told an online media conference on Thursday.
“As a bowling group we were fantastic. We just have to come back and do that again. As a batting group, partnerships are key and I think once we focus on the small targets, then the result should take care of itself.
“But I think we just need to stay calm – that’s the main word – and stay disciplined from both the bowling group and the batsmen [perspective]. I think patience is key on a pitch like the first Test.
“I think once we do those small things right, the result will take care of itself.”
Of concern for Brathwaite will be the batting group which yet again failed to live up to expectations during the first Test at Sabina Park last week.
He, along with former captain Jason Holder and Jermaine Blackwood, was the only batsman to register a half-century, as other key players failed again.
With all the drama around the climax of the first Test, Kemar Roach, Brathwaite and Jayden Seales took the plaudits, but Blackwood’s role ended up being slightly underrated. On a treacherously difficult surface for batting, he came in on both occasions with his side in trouble, bravely looking to go after the bowlers. It translated into key partnerships, taking the pressure off his captain in the first innings by lifting the run rate.
But it was the second innings where his contributions really shone, batting at perhaps the hardest time of the game. Shaheen Afridi was on fire and had just removed three top-order batters. Just before lunch, Blackwood lofted him for two leg-side fours, halting Pakistan’s momentum in a priceless 55-run knock. His role might have been overshadowed, but both sides recognise his quality, and importance to this side.
In the first innings, West Indies gathered 253 to lead Pakistan by 36 runs but when set 168 for victory, suffered another batting implosion to tumble to 151 for nine.
Tailender Roach, who punched at number nine, hit a courageous unbeaten 30 to rescue the run chase.
Brathwaite said discussions had since taken place and the batting group were well apprised of the challenges and expectations, especially with Pakistan boasting a highly talented seam attack.
“I thought Pakistan as a bowling group, they bowled well,” Brathwaite pointed out.
“And as batters, some guys didn’t get the scores, they didn’t get the partnerships on a few occasions but the guys are looking forward to the challenge. It won’t be easy but I think the guys are fully capable of putting good runs on the board.
“We saw how Pakistan bowled, how the pitch played … and they were constantly on a line and length as as batters I believe who has the most patience will come out on top.
“As a batting group, we’ve had a few chats about [being patient]. Patience is the key for Test cricket regardless, it’s always the key. So I think once we have that grind and the will to be patient and let them come to us as batters, we will do fine.”
Despite their success earlier in the year, the places of Kyle Mayers and Nkrumah Bonner are likely to be under the microscope.
Mayers endured the horror of a ‘pair’ in the first Test and now has only 59 runs from his last six Test innings while Bonner’s last four Test innings has yielded 15 runs.
While not giving clues about the team composition, Brathwaite backed his side to perform, regardless of the make-up.
“Whatever side we put on the field, I am confident we can do the job,” he stressed.
“The guys are all confident. Some of the batsmen did not get the scores they would like, but they are ready and raring to go.”
SQUAD – Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Jermaine Blackwood (vice-captain), Nkrumah Bonner, Shamarh Brooks, Rahkeem Cornwall, Roston Chase, Joshua Da Silva, Jahmar Hamilton, Chemar Holder, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Kieran Powell, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales, Jomel Warrican. (CMC/Cricinfo)