Cornwall in the reckoning for first Test, says Simmons

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By Akeem Greene

West Indies Test spinner Rahkeem Cornwall seems a strong candidate to make the cut for the first Test against England on July 8 at the Ageas Bowl, according to Head Coach Phil Simmons.

Much talk has centered around the potency of the current fast-bowling group and with the menacing Shannon Gabriel back to full throttle, the presumption was a return to the four-prong attack strategy which ruffled England in the Caribbean, and Roston Chase doing the bulk of the spin duties.

The handy dilemma lies around Cornwall, who took a match haul of 10-121 against Afghanistan in his last Test, which Simmons felt makes it hard to overlook him as a genuine contender. However, what will dictate the final decision will be the conditions.

Jason Holder discusses his batting with coach Phil Simmons (CWI Media/Philip Spooner)

Though England is known to be a paradise for swing, England’s off-spinner Moeen Ali has taken a likeness to the Ageas Bowl, having taken 17 wickets at 15.47, the most by a player at the venue.

“We have not seen what the Ageas Bowl is like, when we get there we will know what our combination will be like. At this stage, you can say that Rahkeem Cornwall will be a part…he got 10 wickets in the last game so you can say he will be a part,” the Head Coach revealed Monday via the virtual briefing.

“Whether we go with two spinners and three fast-bowlers or four [fast-bowlers] will [be] determined when we see the Ageas bowl…what we have been practicing here could be totally different from the Test wicket.”

West Indies will put two weeks of practice in play from Tuesday with their first of two intra-squad tour matches at Old Trafford. The first is a three-day match, which starts from 11:00h (UK Time) and will have a maximum of 90 overs per day.

In normal circumstances, West Indies would be facing either an England Lions side or a county team, but due to strict guidelines in the bio-secure environment, both of their practice matches have to be played only among the 25 players present.

Despite the matches being contested on an intra-squad basis, Simmons is confident it might even be of a higher calibre than the norm due to the quality of bowlers present.

“The aim is the same as if you were playing a four-day match against a county; the good thing about is that the quality of bowlers we have as part of the reserves makes it a worthwhile run out over the next three days don’t matter which team plays against which.”

The coach believes the batsmen have done the hard work in the nets and it’s over to them now to produce in the middle

With the absence of Darren Bravo and regular number six, Shimron Hetmyer, the coach indicated they are open to ideas of Shane Dowrich or Jason Holder moving up the order, but a definitive decision will come after the practice matches.

“The three-day game, which starts tomorrow then the four-day game will help us decide how we structure the batting from that point of view so there are possibilities from different directions- Jason can bat six, Dowrich can bat six so we will look at the games and make decisions.”

West Indies batting is under the microscope due to lack of consistency, and the coach indicated that batsmen have looked good in the nets, but now it is about an application in the middle.

“The batters have looked really well…the work they have put in over the last couple of weeks have shown and over the next three days we will see how they put their innings together.”

“Most of the batsmen are seasoned players. I think mentally they are tough, but I think we need to continue working on our skills because when you look back at Kraigg [Brathwaite], Roston [Chase] and Shai [Hope], they are mentally tough because they have done it at this level so it is about making them sharp and ready to go in the first game.”

“We have had occasions where we have toured and only after the first game we start really playing cricket so it is something we are trying to get out of our system.”

Simmons, who played for West Indies during the dominance of the 1980s, said the current batch is motivated to end the drought of 32 years without a series win in England.

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, Kemar Roach

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

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