BRIDGETOWN, Barbados, CMC – Embattled West Indies will place several decades of history on the line when they go in search of a series-levelling victory in the second Test of the three-match series against Pakistan here today.
They have never lost a Test series to the visitors on home soil since the two sides first met in the Caribbean in 1958 and have also never been beaten by Pakistan at historic Kensington Oval in six previous clashes there.
But even with the weight of history looming large over the game, captain Jason Holder said his side needed to remain focused on execution over the next five days.
“We’ve got to put that aside. The only way we can keep those stats good is if we tick our boxes. There’s no point looking at the results, we need to tick our process boxes,” Holder told reporters on the eve of the match.
“There’s a process in terms of winning cricket games. We’ve got to put runs on the board, we’ve got to get 20 wickets. I think once we do these things – hold our chances in the field – we stand a very good chance of winning the game here.
“We need to get runs in both first and second innings and we need to take 20 wickets. In order to win a cricket game you have to take 20 wickets and for us to take 20 wickets we have to set the game up with the bat as well, to give ourselves the best chance to take 20 wickets. If we don’t do these things then we’ll be on the losing end.”
West Indies will be also under pressure to produce a result, not only to keep their proud record intact but to keep the series alive, following their seven-wicket defeat in the opening Test at Sabina Park five days ago.
That loss was their 10th to Pakistan in their last 16 meetings and their 11th defeat overall in 15 Tests inside the last two years.
But despite the disappointing Kingston result, Holder said the squad had remained upbeat and were confident they had overcome the issues which plagued them in the opening Test.
“We know what it takes to beat Pakistan. We beat them in Sharjah in the final Test last year, so we know what is required,” Holder pointed out.
“The mood has to be upbeat. We have to be upbeat for this game. We lost the first game in Jamaica and we all know where we went wrong there. We’ve adjusted a few of those issues in our meetings and our practice sessions as well.
“Everybody is fresh coming off of that last game and looking forward to this game in Barbados.”
Ahead of the Sabina Park contest, all eyes were on the inexperienced batting line-up and it was that which proved West Indies’ undoing.
Boasting two debutants in left-handers Vishal Singh and Shimron Hetmyer and three other batsmen with less than 10 Tests each, the Caribbean side was brutally exposed by seamer Mohammed Amir in the first innings and then by wily leg-spinner Yasir Shah in the second.
Sent in, they were 71 for five in the first over after lunch before recovering to make 286. They were not so lucky in their second turn at the crease, bowled out for 152 on the final day after slumping to 93 for four at the close on the previous evening.
With West Indies retaining the same 13-man squad, Holder said it was imperative that his batsmen made adjustments and focused on a competitive first innings total which could put the Pakistanis under pressure.
“We’ve paid a lot of attention to our first innings score. We’ve got to be able to put a good first innings total here in Barbados,” the all-rounder explained.
“One of the things in order to do that is you have to get partnerships. We need to get partnerships up front. We’ve struggled up front for a little while now so it’s just a matter of our openers seeing off the new ball, coming in and solidifying the middle and building some sort of total, respectable enough in the first innings that we can push our bowlers in their first innings as well to get some wickets.”
He added: “We just need to get some partnerships going, batsmen just need to put their hands up, spend some time in the middle – you can only make runs if you are in the middle so we need to spend some time in the middle.”
The Oval pitch appeared dry on the eve of the match, which could favour Pakistan, with their line-up including Yasir and uncapped teenaged leg-spinner Shadab Khan, who terrorized the Windies during the Twenty20 series.
Holder remained wary of the pitch, stressing it was important to get the best out of it in their first innings.
“The pitch looks pretty dry, unusually so. Normally you would expect a little bit more in terms of the surface,” the all-rounder noted.
“It will be interesting to see if it lasts all five days or if it deteriorates quickly. I’m not quite sure so it’s just a matter for us especially to make use of our first innings when we bat.”
WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Kraigg Brathwaite, Kieran Powell, Jermaine Blackwood, Shai Hope, Vishal Singh, Shimron Hetmyer, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Alzarri Joseph, Shannon Gabriel, Devendra Bishoo, Miguel Cummins.
PAKISTAN – Misbah-ul-Haq (captain), Ahmed Shehzad, Azhar Ali, Shan Masood, Babar Azam, Younis Khan, Asad Shafiq, Sarfraz Ahmed, Usman Salahuddin, Yasir Shah, Shadab Khan, Mohammad Asghar, Mohammad Amir, Wahab Riaz, Hasan Ali, Mohammad Abbas.