West Indies seek batting lift after thriller against wounded Pakistan

Jermaine Blackwood heaves to the leg side
August 19, 2021

Big picture

The agonisingly tense denouement to the first Test between these sides would be enough to inject life into any series, and the shot in the arm West Indies gained from that thrilling one-wicket win should serve them extremely well. Having struggled in the format over recent years, it felt like the sort of Test West Indies tend to end up on the wrong side of, and when Kemar Roach nudged one through the covers to send the Caribbean into raptures, you might be tempted to wonder if this was something of a new beginning.

It helps that the victory was timed as sweetly as a Jason Holder extra-cover drive, coming as it does right at the start of this World Test Championship cycle. It catapults West Indies to second spot on the table, but against a dispirited Pakistan, the second Test represents an ideal opportunity for a perfect start to this two-year period.

West Indies were by no means perfect, which of course indicates there's room for improvement. But having outbowled Pakistan for significant periods of the Test, Phil Simmons' side will be aware they have to keep up that quality when it comes to fast bowling, while working out how to put more runs on the board. The coach had been vocal about calling on his batters to improve, and after that first Test, it's not hard to see why. There might not be too many changes in personnel, but with the home side's top order capitulating in both innings, there remains the risk of a wounded Pakistan bowling unit looking to rip through an innings.

There's been an uneasy calm in the days that followed that Pakistan defeat, but likely little appetite for stomaching another one. Pakistan will feel disconsolate at the manner in which they let the game slip out of their grasp, given the multitude of opportunities they had to put distance between the sides on the first three days, and clear-cut opportunities to seal it on the last. Individual errors aside, Pakistan's opening pair looks well short of the quality required at this level, with the extra burden that places on the middle order leaving the side looking unbalanced.

The complete lack of influence spin bowling played in that first Test came as something of a surprise. With both sides opting to field a spinner, it's clear that startled the teams, too, with all 39 wickets falling to the quick bowlers. With the second Test to be played at the same venue, under similar conditions, team selection around spin options might be something worth watching out for.

Form guide

West Indies WLLDD (last five completed matches, most recent first)

Pakistan LWWWW

In the spotlight

With all the drama around the climax of the first Test, Kemar Roach, Kraigg Brathwaite and Jayden Seales took the plaudits, but Jermaine Blackwood's role ended up being slightly underrated. On a treacherously difficult surface for batting, he came in on both occasions with his side in trouble, bravely looking to go after the bowlers. It translated into key partnerships, taking the pressure off his captain in the first innings by lifting the run rate. But it was the second innings where his contributions really shone, batting at perhaps the hardest time of the game. Shaheen Afridi was on fire and had just removed three top-order batters. Just before lunch, Blackwood lofted him for two leg-side fours, halting Pakistan's momentum in a priceless 55-run knock. His role might have been overshadowed, but both sides recognise his quality, and importance to this side.

For much of his career, Yasir Shah was close to the first name on the Pakistan Test team sheet, but it's difficult not to wonder whether those days might be gone for good. Returning from an injury that kept him out of the Zimbabwe Test series, the legspinner who took 10 more wickets than any other bowler the last time Pakistan toured the West Indies was conspicuous by his absence. He went wicketless through the game for just the third time in his career, struggling visibly with his length and failing to generate much spin. It was admittedly a game dominated by fast bowling, but in a low-scoring fourth-innings chase, Babar Azam turned to him for just three overs. With Nauman Ali in the squad, Shah might consider himself lucky to get picked for this game, and he certainly has a point to prove if he does.

Team news

Kieran Powell's dual failure could bring Shai Hope into the picture, with Jomel Warrican's place in the XI also under scrutiny. Chemar Holder, Alzarri Joseph, or even Rahkeem Cornwall are options should West Indies want a different kind of spinner.

West Indies (probable): 1 Kraigg Brathwaite (capt), 2 Kieron Powell/Shai Hope, 3 Nkrumah Bonner, 4 Jermaine Blackwood, 5 Roston Chase, 6 Kyle Mayers, 7 Jason Holder, 8 Joshua Da Silva (wk), 9 Alzarri Joseph/Chemar Holder, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Jayden Seales

Pakistan must also wrestle with the Yasir Shah conundrum, and determine whether his ineffectiveness in the first Test was a function of the pitch or his own lack of form and confidence.

Pakistan (probable): 1 Abid Ali, 2 Imran Butt, 3 Azhar Ali, 4 Babar Azam (capt), 5 Fawad Alam, 6 Mohammad Rizwan (wk), 7 Faheem Ashraf, 8 Hasan Ali, 9 Yasir Shah/Nauman Ali, 10 Mohammad Abbas, 11 Shaheen Afridi

Pitch and conditions

Rain is forecast for part of this Test, but the first day is completely clear. There should be enough good weather around not to seriously spoilt the contest.

Stats and trivia

  • The three overs Shah bowled in the fourth innings were the fewest he has ever bowled for Pakistan in the final innings of a Test other than Cape Town 2020. On that occasion, South Africa needed 41 for victory, and Shah didn't bowl.

  • Roston Chase needs 14 runs to reach 2000 in Test cricket.

  • The last two two-match series between the two sides - in 2011 and 2005 - ended 1-1. On both occasions, West Indies won the first Test, with Pakistan rebounding to level things up.


"Me and Monty [Desai] have been putting a lot of work in the nets behind the scenes. He's just told me to be a little more patient, but he doesn't want me to take away my aggression, but to choose the right shots and not lose focus."

Jermaine Blackwood talks about reconciling his aggressive nature with spending time at the crease

Disclaimer: This news is auto-aggregated by a computer program and has not been created or edited by Cricday. Source Link