Holder insists series still wide open

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By Akeem Greene

Often times Test captain Jason Holder has indicated he tries not to let the players focus on what has happened in the past, but rather the present and what they can control.

But the reality is when the second Test starts on Thursday at Old Trafford, West Indies could be on the cusp of adding a new and promising chapter to the last 32 years of unsuccessful tours to England.

With no series win in England since 1988, their victory on Sunday is the first time since December 2007 in South Africa, they have won the first Test in an away series against a top-ranked nation.

Since the 1992/93 tour of Australia where they won 2-1 in the five Tests, West Indies have not recorded another series victory away from home against higher placed nations in a series consisting of three or more Tests.

Against all nations, their last away series victory was in Zimbabwe in March 2013.

West Indies captain Jason Holder celebrates with teammates dismissing Jofra Archer of England during day two of the 1st #RaiseTheBat Test match at The Ageas Bowl on July 09, 2020 in Southampton, England. (Photo by Mike Hewitt/Getty Images)

Speaking at the virtual briefing on the eve of the match, Holder indicated his side still has tons of work to do to topple what he calls a quality England unit.

“The series is still wide open; it is one day at a time for us. England is a very good team, they got some world-class players so we got our work cut out to win another game. This group [West Indies] has done an outstanding job not only in this series so far but in the last couple of years in terms of our results.”

He added, “Winning the first Test is just a piece of the puzzle; we got two other games to play and we don’t want to get ahead of ourselves, to be honest. That’s the last thing we could do in terms of getting complacent and getting too far ahead. It is us starting fresh and having 10 solid days of cricket.”

If there is one lesson to learn from history for West Indies, is how to close out a series and that tour to South Africa is a prime example of a dominant performance in the first Test, but still lost the series 1-2.

According to Holder, the aim is to be able to consistently produce and execute in the manner they did at Southampton.

“Yes, we have one game, but that does not change anything for us in executing our team plans. If we are going to win a series here we got our work cut out and we got to play some solid cricket and not playing solid cricket for one game, we got to back it up, so there is all to play for in this second one.”

West Indies’ Shai Hope during a nets session at Old Trafford, Manchester. (Photo by Gareth Copley/PA Images via Getty Images)

Strong hope for Hope

Top-order batsman Shai Hope is under pressure to produce a significant score after a horrendous drop in Test form since his heroics on the 2017 tour to England.

Hope has been a runs machine in 50-over cricket and it is reflected in his average being 52.20, the best among his teammates, but his red-ball average lingers at 26.71.

Since those tons at Headingly in 2017, Hope’s best score is 90* against Zimbabwe the same year. Since January 2019, his best score in 11 innings is 57 and his average in his last 28 innings is 18.82.

Despite the lack of form, Holder is backing Hope to come good this series and deliver a big score.

“…all I want to do is keep encouraging players; Shai is a quality player and we have seen that, particularly the last time we were in England and then obviously his One-Day form has been really good. I got all confidence Shai Hope will deliver; he just needs to get himself in and get himself going and he is going to go big for us.”

After arriving in England June 9, West Indies were based at Old Trafford up until the week before the Test at Southampton, but Holder downplayed whether that gives them an advantage since the Englishmen are very knowledgeable about their conditions.

On Joe Root’s return, Holder described his counterpart as a top player, but insisted West Indies need to stick to their plans and execute them consistently.

According to Holder, the pitch has been covered most of the time due to the weather so their final assessment on the playing XI would be made on the morning of the match. John Campbell is also fit to play which hints at the possibility of an unchanged XI.

First ball daily is 11:00h (06:00h Eastern Caribbean).

England squad for second Test: Joe Root (cpt), Ben Stokes, James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.

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

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