Even in decline, West Indies remain a tough nut to crack on home soil

Even in decline, West Indies remain a tough nut to crack on home soil

One of the two main West Indian weaknesses has been the lack of a third fast bowler who can back up Roach and Gabriel. The captain and allrounder Jason Holder bowls tidily but only averages two and a half wickets per Test, so he is in effect a fourth seamer operating as third, with Devendra Bishoo the spinner. Roach and Gabriel are thus over-bowled, their risk of breaking down increased.

Given that West Indies have often been able to summon up a fast bowler suddenly, it is conceivable one might be unleashed in the four days of practice games England have in Barbados. If not, England will be able to play to their chief strength, that of a long line of stroke-players taking the game away after England’s loss of top-order wickets.

James Anderson, who took one wicket in his two Tests in Sri Lanka, will be relieved that the Dukes ball will be used: he set up England’s only victory in the last series in the West Indies with his new-ball spell on the last day in Grenada. The Kookaburra refused to deviate an inch in Sri Lanka, by whatever means, but Anderson can be expected to resume his assault on the summit of 600 Test wickets: he needs 35, with a Test against Ireland then the Ashes to follow this tour.

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