Bennett expects no Windies batting change for second TestThursday, August 19, 2021
BY SANJAY MYERS
West Indies head into tomorrow's start of the second Test against Pakistan at Sabina Park with a vital one-nil lead in the two-match series, but with piercing questions centred on their top-order batting.
In the first Test, which concluded on Sunday's fourth day, the Caribbean side's top-order capitulated in both innings en route to an anxiety-ridden, one-wicket win over the visitors.
Both batting units were undermined by cases of faulty technique and questionable shot selection. In a low-scoring contest matters could have been worse had both teams not missed multiple catching opportunities.
Junior Bennett, the former Jamaica cricket coach, said he does not expect any personnel change to the West Indies batting despite the glaring technical flaws exposed in the series opener.
“We definitely need more from our top-order batsmen… but it's really hard to make changes in our batting unit after only one match,” he told the Jamaica Observer.
“We kept losing a cluster of wickets which was always forcing us to rebuild the innings, so we have to try to avoid losing our wickets in clusters,” Bennett added.
After crucially winning the toss West Indies invited Pakistan to take first strike on a Sabina Park pitch covered with green grass.
The Pakistanis were bowled out for 217 as the West Indies pacers took advantage of the prodigious sideways movement on offer.
West Indies responded with 253, giving them a 36-run first-innings lead.
Batting a second time, the Pakistanis made 203 as West Indies teenaged pacer Jayden Seales, who was awarded player of the match, claimed 5-55 to finish with eight wickets in the contest.
Chasing 168 for victory, West Indies narrowly crept over the line after the last pair of Kemar Roach and Seales added 17 runs.
In the first innings the hosts were 1-2 and later 100-5, but captain and opening batsman Kraigg Brathwaite, who was run out for 97, and Jason Holder (58), rescued them with a 96-run sixth-wicket partnership.
Three of the top six in the line-up — Kieran Powell, Nkrumah Bonner, and Kyle Mayers — failed to get off the mark.
During the run chase, the regional team was 16-3 and then 114-7 against a buoyed Pakistan bowling attack. Middle-order batsman Jermaine Blackwood top-scored with 55, while Roach, who made 30 not out and also hit the winning runs, propped up the lower order.
“The batsmen seemed to struggle with the ball moving around. They are not accustomed to playing on surfaces with so much grass on it. When I say we don't cope with the ball moving around I mean we play at deliveries we should leave,” Bennett, the Jamaica cricket selection chairman, explained.
Surprisingly, given the nature of the batting surface, West Indies opted to play left-armed spinner Jomel Warrican instead of going with four specialist seamers and all-rounder Mayers who bowls medium pace. Warrican was ineffective and went wicketless after bowling only a combined eight overs in the match.
That is one adjustment Bennett thinks the West Indies could make to separate themselves from opponents who historically can be similarly mercurial on the cricket field.
“I think we bowled well in the match, but as well as we bowled, I think we should go for the extra pacer on that Sabina Park surface. It has a lot of grass and if it is not shaved off, it will [offer] seam [movement] right throughout the match,” he argued.