Sport

Windies can't relax; expect tough Sri Lanka in St Lucia

Watching Cricket

with Garfield Myers

Wednesday, June 13, 2018

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Huge margin of victory though it turned out to be, Jason Holder and his West Indies team will know they were quite sloppy in that first Test against Sri Lanka in Port of Spain last week.

Overstepping continued to be a big problem for the fast bowlers, not just Shannon Gabriel. Also, catching remained an issue with at least three drops. And the batting wasn't as focused as it should have been.

The dismissals of Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope in the second innings reflected loose thinking — back foot drives to wide deliveries from Sri Lanka's fastest and most dangerous bowler, the youthful Lahiru Kumara on a pitch with variable bounce and pace, from beginning to end.

That said, there were several extremely pleasing aspects to the West Indies performance.

Gabriel only got four wickets, but outside of his no-ball problem he was mightily impressive. He wasn't just fast and intimidating. He bowled a consistent off-stump line at good length and now seems better able to take the ball away — just a little bit — from the right hand bat.

His mixing of aggressive back-of-a-length deliveries, bouncers and a fuller length was superb, and his stamina in hot, difficult conditions admirable.

How is he to correct this no-ball issue? Surely his coaches have a plan. As it is now, our hearts are in our mouths every time he gets a wicket.

Also, I expect, there must be plans to pull from the talent pool at the ongoing Antigua fast bowlers' training camp as backup and cover for the extreme pace of Gabriel. Kemar Roach remains a class act, but he lacks the pace of a few years ago, while Miguel Cummins, despite good aggressive intent, is fast medium at best.

In that respect, the squad now off on a limited-overs 'A' tour of England is as notable for the missing names as it is for those included.

It has to be borne in mind that the five Test matches against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh in June and July are being played just days apart in extremely hot and draining conditions, and also involving unsettling movement by air from island to island. Even if there are no injuries, there has to be a plan for rotation of pace bowlers in particular.

For me, perhaps the most heartening aspect of the first Test match was the bowling of Devendra Bishoo. In the recent past he has often seemed lacking in control and confidence, erring too often on the short side. In Port of Spain, he bowled a fuller length with good control. Laudably, Bishoo was inclined to try variations to his stock leg break. We saw his rarely used googly as well as a most dangerous quicker, straight one. All too often he has been criticised for a one-dimensional, 'leg break, leg break, leg break' approach.

Bishoo's batting was again a revelation. At 32, he appears to be improving in that regard.

Shane Dowrich's wonderful century reflected a more thoughtful approach to batting — demonstrated for West Indies A against England Lions earlier this year. Added to eye-catching stroke play, he is showing almost Chanderpaul-like patience and a desire to stay at the wicket. If he continues in the same way, they will have to dig him out of this West Indies team.

Kieran Powell, as always a delight to watch when he is making runs, looked good using his feet against the spinners. Spin bowling has long been his undoing. If he can come to grips with Sri Lanka's spinners in this three-Test series, he will go forward against Bangladesh and beyond with great confidence.

Also, I think the regional selectors should be commended for going with five bowlers: Gabriel, Cummins, Roach, Bishoo and Holder, along with the off spin of Chase. This has become possible because Holder at number seven in the order is a genuine all- rounder with the potential to become a top-class batsman. The batting ability of Bishoo and Roach would also have boosted selectors' confidence. I like to dream, and I dream of the day when the exciting Keemo Paul will also find himself in that lower order.

Holder and his men won't need anyone to tell them that Sri Lanka are likely to play much improved cricket in the second Test in St Lucia starting tomorrow. There can be no room for complacency.

To begin with, the highly talented stroke maker Dhananjaya de Silva, who missed the first Test because of the tragic death of his father, is likely to take his place in the visitors' batting order at number three. Those who saw de Silva at the Trelawny Stadium and at Sabina Park with Sri Lanka A against West Indies A late last year will understand what I am talking about. Here is a young batsman of rare talent.

Their pride badly hurt, Sri Lanka will be coming very hard in St Lucia.

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