'Play your game'

'Play your game'

Blackwood says backing of coach, skipper behind defiant, match-winning innings

Tuesday, July 14, 2020

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WEST Indies batsman Jermaine Blackwood says the backing of Captain Jason Holder and the coaching staff was behind his defiant 95 that guided them to a four-wicket win against England on Sunday at The Ageas Bowl.

Blackwood, 28, was playing his first full Test match since 2017, and had failed in the first innings after attempting a lofted drive down the ground.

In the second innings of the opening Test of the three-match series, he got to the crease with his team in strife on 27-3. However, he rode his luck, while combining composure and counter-attacking intent against the persevering England bowling unit.

He fell short of only his second century in Tests, but the knock was enough to take West Indies to victory at 200-6.

Earlier in the encounter, England had made 204 and 313, while the West Indies' first-innings reply was 318.

Blackwood only missed out on winning player of the match because his teammate Shannon Gabriel was utterly splendid in grabbing nine wickets in the contest.

Among those hailing Blackwood was West Indies captain and former youth cricket teammate Jason Holder, labelling the pint-sized player as a “team man” who “is going to give his all” on the field.

Yesterday, Blackwood welcomed the praise.

“When you know that the captain has all confidence in you it just makes you feel good. I know Jason from way back from Under-15 days, so he knows what I'm capable of doing,” he told theJamaica Observer.

“At no point in time when I was going to bat in the second innings I felt pressure. Just before I went out to bat, the coach [Phil Simmons] and the captain both told me just to play my natural game, but just be selective,” the Jamaican middle order batsman added.

Outside of an appearance as a concussion substitute in 2019 — in which he made 38 from his lone chance to bat — Blackwood had not played a Test match in almost three years due to modest form.

But he has done well against England in Tests. He averages over 50 against them and his lone Test century — an unbeaten 112 — came against the Englishmen in Antigua in 2015. The impressive average is the best among current Windies players against England.

On the last tour of England, he tallied 187 runs and averaged 37.4 with a top score of 79 not out in six innings. Only Shai Hope (375 runs; average 75) and Kraigg Brathwaite (283 runs; average 47.16) were better for West Indies.

Understandably, Blackwood expressed frustration after he was dismissed a second time — again aiming a lofted off drive — but he said it was because he wasn't able to stay to the end.

“I was very disappointed in myself when I got out at that stage of the game. It was very emotional for me when I got out, not because I got out, it was because I didn't take my team across the line. I wasn't thinking about the hundred, I was just thinking about winning the game for my team,” he explained.

The Test series is being contested in a biosecure environment to reduce the risk of spreading the novel coronavirus.

The second and third matches are scheduled for Old Trafford, starting Thursday and July 24, respectively.

West Indies are defending the Wisden Trophy after stunning the Englishmen 2-1 last year in the Caribbean.

However, England, the world number four-rated Test side, are favourites against eighth-ranked West Indies. England have not lost a Test series at home to the Caribbean side since 1988.

—Sanjay Mayers

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