ESPNcricinfo– West Indies captain Jason Holder wants his players to put in the extra effort to win the series 2-0 in Barbados. Holder emphasised on how he wanted the bowlers to be a “lot more consistent” and batsmen to convert their starts into big knocks when the final match of the series – the first day-night Test in the West Indies – begins on Saturday. West Indies currently lead the series 1-0 after they won in Port-of-Spain and the controversial St Lucia Test ended in a draw.
“I try to get the guys to focus on the process, we’ve got to know what we need to do in order to win a Test match,” Holder said on Friday. “We’ve got to do small things over a long period of time, our bowlers have got to be a lot more consistent, our batsmen convert most of the starts we’ve been getting. I think the guys are really up for the occasion and everybody knows what’s at stake.
“We’re playing some really good cricket in the series. Individual performances have really stood out, and we really came together as a side. The first Test match was obviously exceptional, probably we were not at our best in our last Test match in St Lucia.”
Among Holder’s few concerns was how his batsmen were able to start in the last few Test series, but they were not making them count with big scores. In the two Tests of the series so far, West Indies have seen a century and a fifty from Shane Dowrich, and half-centuries from Kieron Powell, Kraigg Brathwaite and Devon Smith. In their last Test series, however – in New Zealand in 2017-18 – the highest individual score in four innings was Brathwaite’s 91 even as three different New Zealand batsmen scored centuries. Among frontline batsmen, only Brathwaite averaged over 35 in the series.
“Yeah, it’s obviously an area of concern for us,” Holder admitted. “We’ve had a number of starts over the last couple of Test series but the batsmen haven’t been able to carry on. I just think it’s matter for us to focus on every particular delivery, not get too far ahead. I always stress on the process and we need to be playing ball by ball and not looking too far ahead down the line. Obviously, once you get those starts, it’s about focusing a little bit harder on those twenties and thirties and push past the landmark and hopefully take it really big.”
Holder had more praise for his bowlers who have headlined the series so far. Shannon Gabriel’s record-breaking 13-wicket haul in St Lucia helped bowl out Sri Lanka for 253 and 342, before the hosts drew the match on the last day. In the first Test, the bowling attack put up a combined performance when the fast bowlers helped dismiss Sri Lanka for 185 in the first innings and the spinners took over in the second, to seal a 226-run win. Holder hoped his bowlers would “adjust early” in the third Test.
“I think the pitch at St Lucia offered a lot for our bowlers as well,” he said. “With these pitches offering something on the first couple of days of a Test match, it is important our bowlers find the length and line early. Some of us tend to get carried away although the pitch might be helpful, not still being able to put the ball in the correct area and draw the batsman forward and lure him into [edging] behind in the slip cordon. There’s still a chance for our bowlers to adjust to the surface, we don’t know how it’s going to play, we’re not going to sit here and assume. Whatever the situations and the conditions, I think it’s a matter for our bowlers to make the adjustment early and find the relevant length and line to bowl.”
West Indies will also draw confidence from their recent record at the Kensington Oval, where they beat Pakistan and England in their last two Tests. Last year, Gabriel had taken nine wickets, including a 5 for 11 in the second innings when the hosts had dismantled Pakistan for only 81 in a chase of 188. In May 2015, their pace attack staged a fightback for a five-wicket win by keeping England to 123 in the second innings.
“The pitch is very truly Caribbean,” Holder said. “And the last two pitches here in Kensington Oval in Test matches deteriorated quite quickly. This pitch seems to have a lot more grass cover on it, it should be a really good Test match. The ground looks in pretty good shape, the best I’ve seen in a long time.”