West Indies seek to turn around tour fortunes
ABU DHABI, United Arab Emirates – For all their pluck shown in the first Test against Pakistan, the West Indies lost and are now 7-0 down on their tour of the United Arab Emirates. They were whitewashed in the preceding Twenty20 and One-Day International series.
Starting at 2 a.m. Friday at the Sheikh Zayed Stadium, Jason Holder and his team will seek to draw confidence from their fighting effort in last week’s Test and avoid defeat number eight and yet another series loss. During a media briefing today Holder said his side would be taking the momentum gained from that game into the next five days of the second Test.
“We’re obviously confident. We played a very good Test match in Dubai and were very competitive,” an upbeat Holder said.
“We had some great positives coming out of that game so for me it’s just to transfer it into this game. Abu Dhabi maybe a fortress for Pakistan but we’ve shown we can compete in this series and we’re very, very confident heading into the second Test match.”
He added: “Obviously we did some good things in the last Test match. We didn’t get over the line and everybody was disappointed there. We showed hurt, we spoke about it and refreshed our minds and we’re ready to go again.”
Coming off those embarrassing clean sweeps in the Twenty20 and One-Day International series, West Indies’ woes looked set to continue when Pakistan piled up a massive 579 for three declared in their first innings.
But the Caribbean side responded with 357, then bundled out their opponents for 123, to open up the game with a target of 346 to win.
They were competitive thanks mainly to Darren Bravo’s eighth Test hundred but once he departed in the final hour on the last day, the Windies’ challenge faded. Holder said his side were focused on making the improvements necessary to come away with victory.
“We need to sharpen up on the little mistakes we made in the field. I think we can be a bit better in the field and obviously cut down on those no-balls which we bowled,” he pointed out.
“It cost us on one occasion and we don’t want that going forward so I just think it’s the little small areas in terms of the fielding. We can be a little bit tighter when we bowl and stick to our plans for a little longer.”
As it did in Dubai, the spotlight will again fall on the spin attack of both sides. West Indies will depend heavily on leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo whose career-best eight-wicket haul in the second innings in Dubai, blew the game open.
Pakistan, however, will be hoping for better from leg-spinner Yasir Shah and left-arm spinner Mohammad Nawaz. Yasir picked up five in the Windies first innings but was largely ineffective on a final day wicket and claimed just two scalps in the second innings.
Holder said he expected the bulk of the work to be shouldered by the spinners and said it was important their seamers understood their roles.
“The wickets are very good. Both sides struggled to get wickets with their seamers,” the 24-year-old pointed out.
“Both spinners dominated in the first Test match so it’s a situation where the pacers have to be a little bit more patient, let the spinners get into their work and be a bit more aggressive.”
He continued: “Pakistan has a quality spinner in Yasir Shah and they’ve got an inexperienced one in Nawaz and the bulk of the work will be heavily dependent on Yasir Shah.
“I thought we coped with him really well in the second innings. He was not as effective though it was a day five pitch and I think the more time we spend on each wicket we bat on, the better off for us.
“They always say the longer you spend at the crease, the easier it becomes so we’re going to take that approach into this Test match.”
Pakistan have been boosted by the return of veteran right-hander Younis Khan who missed the Dubai Test as he recovered from the effects of dengue.
With nearly 10 000 Test runs, over 100 Tests and already 32 hundreds, Younis is a much feared campaigner but Holder said while they respected him, they would not be intimidated.
“He’s a quality player [and] coming off a double in his last innings in England, there’s no doubt the calibre of player he is but cricket is played on the day and that’s exactly what we’re going to do,” Holder asserted.
“We’ve seen some footage of him, we’ve formulated our plans and it’s about giving them a chance to be executed so we’re going into the game with our game plans and looking to execute them.”
On a personal level Holder will be hoping to contribute much more with the ball. He has taken just two wickets from his 119.2 overs in six Tests this year at an average of 169.5 per scalp. And that has not helped West Indies to dismiss opponents cheaply.