Batsmen cause concern for tourists
West Indies’ pace attack reported fit and well at Lord’s today - from their minor niggles - but the bigger question marks for the first Investec Test surround the tourists’ callow batsmen.
Kieran Powell made his second first-class hundred in West Indies’ 10-wicket defeat against England Lions at Wantage Road, where number four Darren Bravo also posted back-to-back fifties.
But Powell’s opening partner Adrian Barath and Kirk Edwards mustered only 26 runs between them in their four collective innings in the midlands, having previously made 16 and eight respectively in the near washout at the PROBIZ County Ground.
It all leaves much potentially depending on world number one batsman Shivnarine Chanderpaul for the three-Test series against England’s renowned pace attack.
Coach Ottis Gibson was once the man charged with fine-tuning the methods of James Anderson, Stuart Broad and others - until he left his job as England’s bowling specialist to take charge of his native team.
He does not dispute that the Windies’ top order are in for a decidedly tough challenge, at this early stage of their promising careers. But he knows he must place his faith in their abilities nonetheless.
“Sometimes, the best place to get experience is out in the middle,” said Gibson.
“We know it’s going to be a challenge for them - but the selectors have got a lot of confidence in them, as I have. We know they are good players - they’ve proven that at home.
“Not a lot of people perform outstandingly well at home and, bearing in mind we are still in a rebuilding phase, these guys are the guys the selectors have decided are the ones they want to have first go at rebuilding the team.
“These are the guys who have to take the challenge and play their best cricket in the series.”
Chanderpaul, who marked his 140th Test appearance last month by becoming only the 10th batsman in history to reach 10,000 runs, has batted at number five or lower in his 20 innings over the past year.
It is a position which clearly suits him, but not necessarily his team - and it may well become a significant issue if England begin to make short work of the youngsters above him here.
“It’s something we’ve thought about,” said Gibson. “Our batting revolves around Shiv - he’s very comfortable in the position he is at the moment and he’s doing a good job for us.
“We don’t want to upset the batting line-up too much, so we’ve decided to leave it as it is at the moment. It’s something we haven’t completely ruled out, but it’s something we will have to revisit at some stage.”
What about the man himself, though?
“If it was a team decision, then I am sure he will be very happy with it,” added Gibson.
Whatever the batting order, the tourists’ pace bowlers appear to be in encouraging heart.
Kemar Roach (ankle), Fidel Edwards (back) and Ravi Rampaul (stiff neck) were all minor injury concerns after the match in Northampton but were able to bowl with no apparent ill-effects as rain forced West Indies to practise in the Lord’s indoor school this morning.
“Everybody pulled up okay today,” said Gibson. “Kemar twisted his ankle at Northants - he’s been treated twice a day for the last couple of days.
“He had a little bowl today, about six overs, pretty controlled ... no complaints, so at this stage he’s doing okay. Ravi is fine, and Fidel is as well. Everything looks all set for Thursday.”