AS he looked ahead to today’s second and final Test against New Zealand, West Indies Captain Darren Sammy told journalists “it’s a long while we haven’t won two tests in a row”.
In fact we have to go back 10 years to 2002 in Bangladesh. And in the Caribbean we have to go back to 2000. Back then the James Adams-led West Indies swept Zimbabwe in a two-Test series in the Caribbean winning the last Test by 10 wickets at Sabina Park.
Sammy knows that nothing less will be expected of his team as they take the field at Sabina Park today against what’s been generally considered a weak New Zealand team. The job should be even easier with news yesterday that the visitors most decorated and experienced bowler, leftarm spinner Daniel Vettori is out with a groin strain.
West Indies, coming off last weekend’s nine-wicket triumph in the first Test in Antigua, will also be without a leading bowler — Ravi Rampaul who is also down with groin problems.
But the regional selectors will feel far less stressed than their New Zealand counterparts, in choosing between two Barbadian tearaways Tino Best and Fidel Edwards who have enjoyed Sabina Park in the past.
Best is favoured to take the spot since he was in the squad originally, while Edwards, who made a sensational debut at Sabina Park nine years ago, but has had a poor year thus far, was only called up following Rampaul’s injury.
Sammy appeared to say as much at the press briefing yesterday. “Tino has been bowling well and he was in the original squad so I think that gives him a massive edge,” said the West Indies captain.
Best or Edwards will partner fast-improving Kemar Roach, whose incisive spells on the final day of the first Test spell handed West Indies victory. Jamaican cricket followers will also recall Roach’s superb control at high pace as he took 5-31 for Barbados in a four-day regional game at Sabina back in February.
Again, the off-spinner Sunil Narine, who captured eight wickets and the Man-of-the Match award in Antigua, will be under the microscope on a pitch which usually provides bounce for all bowlers and sharp turn for spinners as it wears.
Chris Gayle, who batted so dominantly in Antigua in his first Test since 2010, will want to do at least as well on his home turf during Jamaica’s 50th anniversary weekend.
If such a thing is possible, he will even want to steal some of the thunder from the Olympics in London. Marlon Samuels, who missed out in Antigua, will have similar ambitions.
And it would be a brave man who would suggest that having been dismissed for zero in Antigua as the West Indies piled up a 500-plus score, that Shivnarine Chanderpaul won’t leave his mark in this second Test. Those who turn up at Sabina or switch their channels from the Olympics will also be eyeing the tall, elegant lefthander Kieran Powell who hit his maiden Test hundred in Antigua in partnership with Gayle; as well as the Guyanese lefthanders Assad Fudadin and Narsingh Deonarine.
New Zealand will presumably look to replace Vettori with leg spinner Tarun Nethula who is yet to play Test cricket.
Their faster bowlers, particularly the tall veteran Chris Martin could find the bounce at Sabina a little more to their liking than was the case in Antigua.
You would expect that New Zealand’s captain, the classy Ross Taylor, Martin Guptill who fell three short of his third Test century in Antigua and Brendon McCullum, will need to lead the way with the bat, if they are to thwart the West Indies charge.
West Indies from — Darren Sammy (capt), Christopher Gayle, Kieran Powell, Assad Fudadin, Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Narsingh Deonarine, Denesh Ramdin, Sunil Narine, Kemar Roach, Tino Best, Fidel Edwards, Adrian Barath.
New Zealand from — Ross Taylor (capt), Martin Guptill, Daniel Flynn, Brendon McCullum, Kane Williamson, Dean Brownlie, Kruger van Wyk, Doug Bracewell, Chris Martin, Neil Wagner, Trent Boult, Tarun Nethula, Tim Southee, BJ Watling.