Jermaine Blackwood
Jermaine Blackwood during his winning knock of 95 in the first test.

By Ravendra Madholall
Series-leader West Indies are set to tackle host-country England in the second and penultimate test starting Thursday.

The men in the maroon pulled off a hard-fought four-wicket victory in the opening test, courtesy of a plethora of top all-round performances.

Restricting their oppositions for 204 and 313 in the first and second innings respectively, West Indies scored 318 and then successfully chased down 200, with number 6 batsman Jermaine Blackwood hitting a responsible 95.

Other key batsmen showed good form in both innings including experienced opener Kraigg Brathwaite (65) and wicketkeeper/batsman Shane Dowrich (61).

The bowling was equally outstanding led by skipper Jason Holder who snared six wickets when England batted first while another pacer Shannon Gabriel supported admirably with four victims. The Trinidadian Gabriel was more ominous in the second innings as he snapped up 5-75 to finish with a nine-wicket haul that gave him the man-of-the-match award.

However, with history created by the visitors, head coach of the team Phil Simmons is cautioning his players about complacency after that dominant display in England’s own backyard.

“To come out on top, it’s been great for us, and it was important because you don’t want to have to chase England in England. So the chasing is from their point of view now.

Shannon Gabriel
Shannon Gabriel with his Man of the Match award from the first test.

“But you guard against complacency by just trying to do the same things you did before the first Test. Right now, that Test match is history. We’ve got to be thinking about what we do from Thursday to Monday,” Simmons, who represented West Indies in 26 tests and 143 one-days, stated.

Simmons also informed Sports Max that the preparations in a biosecure bubble paid off while spending a lengthy time in England ahead of the series has also paid off greatly.

“I think that has been the biggest influence on the performance. I think the fact that we’ve been here for that period of time, we’ve had quality bowling in the nets because we’ve had nearly 11 seamers here, you can’t put a price on that.

“I think that’s something that we have to look at. I don’t like to go back into my [playing] days, but we would come to England and play something like three or four proper warm-up games before the first Test, and we would also have three-day or four-day games in between the Test matches.

“So I think that period of training goes a long way to how we performed in that first Test,” he added.

On the other hand, England would have been disappointed with their performances in both departments of the game. Certainly they had missed the service of seasoned batsman and captain Joe Root. He was off for personal reason owing to the birth of his second child. England might have felt the absence of veteran fast-bowler Stuart Broad who was surprisingly dropped but once these two stalwarts are back, they may add value to the team. With only two half-centuries in the game for the Pommies, they would most likely make changes to the inexperienced batting lineup.

Their bowling is expected to lead by ace man James Anderson again, the high-profile quickie while Jofra Archer and James Wood equally talented and quick as well.