SPORTS

Will Windies Top Order Fire Or Sputter In England?

The top-order batting for any team is the primary driving force in winning cricket matches. If opening batters hit their straps past the early period of an inning, then at the back end, it becomes easier for the team to dominate.

Moreover, this would put bowlers in an attacking rather than defensive mindset.

When England toured the Caribbean last year, Windies’ top order batters were, 1) Kraigg Brathwaite, 2) John Campbell, 3) Shai Hope, 4) Darren Bravo, 5) Roston Chase, and 6) Shimron Hetmyer.

However, this time around, Windies will be without the experienced batsman Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmyer, the young and audacious batting star from Guyana.

Consequently, Windies batting lineup at the top for the England tour could be, 1) Kraigg Brathwaite, 2) John Campbell, 3) Shai Hope, 4) Shamarh Brooks 5) Roston Chase, and 6) Jermaine Blackwood.

The number 4 position is pivotal to any batting team. Why? It is really where the rubber hits the road — the team depends on the batter at this position for offense and defense.

A brief look at batters who currently play in this position shows Virat Kohli of India, Steve Smith of Australia, and Joe Root of England.

At present, Windies has no batter in the class of the aforementioned players, but they must repose confidence in one of their inexperienced batters.

In the absence of Darren Bravo, the lot in my view falls on Shamarh Brooks; this, of course, would be a reward for past performance in that position in his last outing for the Windies.

Brooks, viewed as a cricket prodigy in his teenage years, played for the West Indies under-19 cricket team in the 2006 Under-19 Cricket World Cup, made his first-class cricket debut for Barbados in 2007, and captained the West Indies in the 2008 Under-19 Cricket World Cup.

He has not lived up to expectation thus far and faltered along the way, but of late has resurrected his cricket career by putting runs on the board in several of his local outings.

He made his Test debut for the West Indies against India on 22 August 2019. In November 2019, in the one-off Test against Afghanistan, Brooks scored his first century in Test Cricket with 111 runs.

He has the potential to do well, and with good application could make the number 4 position his own.

Jermaine Blackwood is back into the team after a long layoff. He is a good middle-order batsman, having played 28 Test matches and with a century to his name.

He last played in the national colors when India demolished Windies last year in August. He came in as a substitute replacement after Darren Bravo retired hurt and scored 38.

Blackwood’s re-entry to the side comes on the back of solid performances in Windies local competition this year. In his last 8 First-class appearances, he made seven half-centuries and gained a man of the match performance in his last First-class game scoring 248.

“Jermaine Blackwood returns by sheer weight of performance in the domestic first-class season. His patience and application were evident, and that resulted in much greater consistency, which I look forward to him taking back into the Test arena,” said Roger Harper, Chairman of Selectors.

Kraigg Brathwaite, Shai Hope, Roston Chase, and Jermaine Blackwood were all part of the squad that toured England back in 2017.

Although that’s history, it puts them in good stead as they would have had the experience of playing in England.

Shai Hope had won the Windies a match by scoring centuries in back -to back the innings, playing in English conditions, and that is a significant advantage.

John Campbell is relatively new to international cricket. He is an aggressive left-handed batsman who likens his style of play to that of Chris Gayle. He made his first-class debut for Jamaica in early 2014.

He has not been consistent, but his numbers suggest that he has the goods.

He received his Test cap in the home series against England in early 2019 and showed that he belongs. So far, he has played 6 Tests with a highest score of 55. He also has highest scores of 179 in ODI, 156 in First Class, and 179 in List A.

Kraigg Brathwaite, is a seasoned campaigner, but some would argue that he is lucky to be in the team for this tour as his run of form of late has been a disaster.

He made his first-class debut at the young age of 16 and impressed, scoring 73 while opening the batting for Barbados.

Brathwaite made the senior side in 2011, debuted against Pakistan in the home Test series. He has now played 59 Tests, averaging 33.29 with a highest score of 212.

Finally, the top order includes Roston Chase, a batting all-rounder, right-handed batsman, and a right-arm off-spin bowler. In July 2017, he was named Cricketer of the Year and Test Cricketer of the Year by the West Indies Players’ Association. He made his Test debut for the West Indies on 21 July 2016 and has been a consistent performer since then.

These are the batsmen that the Windies would be looking to make the cut or deliver the goods come July 8.

Now, how they will fare against a rampaging English attack that includes the likes of James Anderson (584 Test wickets, most by a fast bowler), Stuart Broad (485 Test wickets, second most by an English bowler), Jofra Archer (the latest cricket sensation), Ben Stokes (the most wanted cricketer right now) — only time will tell!

Readers Bureau, Contributor

Edited by Jesus Chan

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