WINDIES seek to extend unbeaten run against stern South African examination

Wed, Jun 9, '21

by KRISSANIA YOUNG

Commentary

Ahead of their T20 World Cup title defense this fall, the West Indies have been plated a huge home summer of cricket, which includes the continued reshaping of their identity as a Test team. For that purpose, Cricket West Indies, on Tuesday morning, confirmed the 13-man squad to confront the visiting South Africans for two Tests, first up on the cards. The squad sees the awaited return of the Barbadian, Shai Hope, to Test cricket, fellow opening batsman, Kieran Powell, all-rounder, Roston Chase, as well as the inclusion of 19-year-old Trinidadian pacer, Jayden Seales. Replacing John Campbell, the injured Shannon Gabriel, Darren Bravo and spinner Jomel Warrican.

The full squad reads: Kraigg Brathwaite (c), Jermaine Blackwood (vc), Nkrumah Bonner, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Joshua Da Silva, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Kieran Powell, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales.

As this series concludes the inaugural cycle of the ICC World Test Championship for the West Indies and South Africa, the aim will be to climb the points table on which they are currently ranked 6th and 7th, respectively. 

The West Indies, who are unbeaten in four games in 2021, after standing up to Bangladesh away from home and hosting Sri Lanka, will resume their search for a partner to bat alongside Kraigg Brathwaite after the failing John Campbell’s non-inclusion. Campbell, who played 15 consecutive Tests for the West Indies since 2019, managed only two scores above 50, boasting a high score of 68 and an average of 23.70.

A-Hope with Caution

The expected swap at the top with Hope for Campbell, however, does bring its own complications, as the right-hander, like Campbell, has also had his struggles in red-ball cricket. In his 34 Test match career, Hope has batted everywhere from the opening position to no.8 for the West Indies, averaging the least while opening (for positions he’s batted more than once).  

Hope, whose average of 26.28 is only slightly higher than that of the Jamaican’s, was averaging just 19.16 in his last 17 matches over three years in Tests, all while averaging 58.43 in that same period in One-Day Internationals. Yet another example, if one was even needed, highlighting the nuances of the two formats. Therefore, it is by no means a foregone conclusion that Hope’s second stint in the Test side will be a success.

However, his scores of 68, 79 and 104 in his last three innings in red-ball warm-up matches do provide a source of encouragement. So, if there was one batsman in the entire Caribbean I’d bet on turning this misfortune around, it would be Shai Hope.

Important Series for Joseph

With the emergence of Chemar Holder and to a lesser extent (for now anyway) Jayden Seales—especially given the high praises coming out of the WINDIES camp for the latter—complemented by the lack of wickets from Alzarri Joseph, this summer might just shape up to be the most important in the Antiguan’s Test career, so far. As the saying goes, “catches win matches,” but bowling attacks being able to take 20 wickets will dominate Test match cricket.

Joseph’s Test Stats reads: 16 games, 38 wickets, an average of 39.45, a best of 4/50.

With Holder, Roach and Gabriel being no strangers to 5-fers and 4-wicket hauls, and the years dragging on, there seems to be a gaping disparity appearing between the aforementioned and the 24-year-old, Joseph. Though less experienced than the senior trio, Joseph—who made his debut in 2016, has played 16 Tests since and has been an ever-present in the WINDIES bowling attack as a fourth seam option, when fit—is by no means inexperienced.

And although the 2016 U19 World Champion has been able to make the step up in ODI cricket, being included in the ESPNcricinfo 2020 ODI team of the year, his form is yet to transcend formats. This, as he persists with pitching the red-ball—as he does the white-ball—back-of-a-length, foregoing two wicket-taking options, in swing more than seam in a format where batsmen are ready to play the waiting game.

The Daren Sammy Cricket Stadium has hosted seven Test matches, with only three games being result-oriented. However, those three results, which saw the teams batting first winning on all three occasions, have come in the last four games. Those four games producing a first-innings average of 337.

The injury to Shannon Gabriel introduces a selection conundrum for the West Indies, who now, with the return of Chase, has the option of fielding two spinners or handing a debut to the teenager, Seales.

Predicted XI: Brathwaite, Hope, Bonner, Mayers, Blackwood, Holder, Da Silva, Cornwall, Joseph, Roach, Seales.

Schedule:

Game 1: Thursday, June 10th @ Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, 10 AM ECT (9 AM JA Time).

Game 2: Friday, June 18th @ Daren Sammy Cricket Ground, 10 AM ECT (9 AM JA Time).

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