Better bowling execution has lifted West Indies to victory in their series against England, the Caribbean team’s former coach Stuart Law has said ahead of the third and final Test starting in St. Lucia on Saturday.
The underdog home team clinched the series by winning the first two Tests in one-sided fashion with performances that suggested the fortunes of the moribund West Indies might be on the up after years in the Test doldrums.
Law said West Indies’ pace quartet had bowled a better line than England, whose fast bowlers too often strayed too far outside off stump. The raw pace of Shannon Gabriel gave West Indies an extra weapon, someone who “put the wind up” the England batsmen, according to Law.
“You can’t buy pace. It’s a god given talent… that allows these guys to get up to those speeds,” Law said on a Wisden.com podcast.
The former Australian batsman quit as West Indies’ head coach in September to take the same role at England county side Middlesex.
During his two years in the Caribbean Law witnessed up close the ability of West Indies’ fast bowlers, none more intimidating than Gabriel, who was clocked at more than 90 miles-per-hour (145 kph) in the first Test in Barbados.
“Shannon Gabriel bowling at (that pace), no-one wants to face it and I know for a fact a few England boys don’t like facing Shannon,” Law said.
“He wasn’t the main destroyer. He was the one who put the wind up (England) and got them thinking, and then you had the skill and the craft of Kemar Roach, and Jason Holder with his big swing and bounce and a young firebrand Alzarri Joseph who can let rip at 90-plus as well. West Indies had better plans. The strategy was very simple, bowl fast and straight. They attacked the stumps more when they bowled. England were bowling pretty balls outside off stump.”
Gabriel’s bowling average is a little under 30 runs per wicket in 42 Tests, and he has improved with age. The 30-year-old has taken five wickets in the current series at an average of 27.4, and has softened up the England batsmen for Roach, Holder and Jospeh with the trio sharing 27 wickets among themselves.
Holder will miss the third Test – suspended due to the team’s slow over rate in the second – which will give West Indies a chance to give another young bowler a gallop in 21-year-old Oshane Thomas, whose pace is on a par with Gabriel’s.
England, seeking to avoid being swept in the series, have some injury concerns. Pace bowler Ben Stokes has a bruised right heel, while wicketkeeper Ben Foakes incurred a bruised hand in the second Test.
Poor Windies tour can open doors to England Test side: Jos Buttler
England’s disappointing performances on their West Indies tour could open the door for new players looking to break into the Test team, batsman Jos Buttler has said.
England are down 2-0 in the three-match series after last week’s 10-wicket defeat in the second Test at Antigua, where their batsmen managed scores of 187 and 132 in two innings. Their flaws were exposed in the opening Test too where the tourists suffered a humiliating 381-run defeat and Buttler said England’s fringe and uncapped players would be keen to stake their claim.
“It’s fair to say for a little while now there’s been positions up for grabs,” Buttler told the BBC. “That’s an exciting place for guys outside and inside the team — to know there are opportunities to make a real stand and say this is the position you’re personally going to nail down.”
After the third Test, which begins in St Lucia on Saturday, Joe Root’s side face Ireland at Lord’s before the Ashes series against Australia gets underway in August, leaving them with limited opportunities to have a settled team.
Buttler said a more immediate task was to get their batsmen to handle testing conditions, pointing to Darren Bravo as an example after the West Indies player occupied the crease for over five hours in Antigua for his 50.
“International cricket demands you adapt to conditions and West Indies have done that really well and we’ve been found wanting,” he added. “Bravo committed to setting his stall out and putting a high price on his wicket. That commitment to your style and staying true to how you want to play is so important.”
All-rounder Ben Stokes could be a doubt for the third Test after missing training due to bruised right heel, British media reported, adding Ben Foakes (hand) and Chris Woakes (knee) are also nursing injuries.