Roach to England’s batsmen: ‘Expect more hostility’

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By Akeem Greene

When England toured the Caribbean in early 2019, the initial prediction from pundits was that the number four ranked Test nation would have a walk in the park.

However, it was quite the opposite as they were greeted with a baptism of fire from a West Indies pace unit, which has developed into a potent four-prong attack.

In the first Test at the Kensington Oval, the number eight ranked West Indies saw their pacers produce a barrage of aggressive bowling which left the visitors in tatters – they were bowled out for 77 in 30.2 overs, with Kemar Roach snaring 5-17.

In their quest to retain the prized Wisden Trophy in the upcoming three-Test return series, Roach, the leader of the attack, indicated that though plans will have to adjust due to a change in conditions, the aggression will be ever so present.

“It is different conditions obviously to the Caribbean…the ball does a little bit more in England so I think we have to adjust our plans, devise a great plan to come against these England batsmen, but I don’t think our mode of attack will change much,” Roach indicated while speaking on a virtual press conference Sunday.

Ben Stokes reacts after being struck on the hand by a ball from Shannon Gabriel (Photo by Shaun Botterill/Getty Images)

“We saw them in the Caribbean and obviously it is pretty fresh in our minds. It is always going to be tough to play in England, but once we get stuck into them, we stand a great chance of defeating England.”

Roach (11th), Jason Holder (3rd) and Shannon Gabriel (19th), are the only West Indian bowlers in the top 20 of the ICC Test rankings and they were the main wrecking balls against England in the Caribbean where they took a combined 34 wickets; Alzarri Joseph supported with 10 wickets.

On the trip to England in 2017, the trio took 26 wickets, and Roach, who needs seven more scalps to join the 200-club, felt his teammates have been of tremendous support.

“I think I have been having some fantastic support from the other fast bowlers; I think as a group we have been doing a fantastic job. Yes, I have hit a form, so right now I am confident and want to improve on my stats and obviously help West Indies win games.”

The 31-year-old Barbadian, who has taken 29 wickets in his last six Tests against England, said that Caribbean curators should be applauded for improved pitches, which has seen a renewed interest in fast-bowling.

Kemar Roach celebrates a wicket (Associated Press)

In this season of the Regional Four-Day Championship, apart from spinner Veerasammy Permaul, who topped the charts with 50 wickets, there was a heavy presence of fast-bowlers, notably, Chemar Holder, Preston McSween, Keon Harding and Marquino Mindley, who earned selection to the reserve list.

“The pitches in the Caribbean improved, curators have done a fantastic job preparing bouncier and greener pitches so it breeds more fast bowlers; we always had a history of fast bowlers but we just need a pitch to bowl on… I am looking forward to our bowling line up, we have done well over the last couple of years and if we continue to work hard…some great things are ahead of us.”

Adapting to no saliva

Roach is one of the most experienced players in this current squad, and he indicated it has been a difficult period adjusting to the new rule of no saliva being used a method of shining the ball, especially since the conditions in England have not been conducive to producing sweat.

“Atmosphere down here is pretty chilly so there is not much sweat that you can produce so it is about finding other ways that you can shine the ball… it is pretty tough but we are coming up with some ways where we can get some gloss on the ball, but it takes a lot more practice but we will keep working at it and we will see what is the best way going forward.”

In the build-up to the Test series, West Indies will have two warm-up matches at Emirates Old Trafford Manchester before they travel to Southampton.

The three-day match will be played from Tuesday, June 23 to Thursday, June 25 and the four-day match from Monday, June 29 to Thursday, July 2.

Test Squad: Jason Holder (Captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Chemar Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Raymon Reifer and Kemar Roach.

Reserve Players: Sunil Ambris, Joshua DaSilva, Shannon Gabriel, Keon Harding, Kyle Mayers, Preston McSween, Marquino Mindley, Shayne Moseley, Anderson Phillip, Oshane Thomas and Jomel Warrican.

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