Cricket Sports

Series “wide open” cautions Holder

West Indies will go in search of a historic series win when they face England in the second Test starting here Thursday but captain Jason Holder warned the series was still wide open, stressing it was critical his side replicated the same intensity displayed in the first Test last week.

Speaking in an online media conference on Wednesday, Holder reiterated that England boasted a world class unit and acknowledging West Indies faced a massive challenge in order to outplay the hosts in the Old Trafford contest.

Should West Indies win the Test, it will mark the Caribbean side’s first series success on English spoil in 32 years.

“This series is still wide open – there are still 10 days of cricket left,” Holder said as he repeatedly dialed back on expectations following his side’s impressive four-wicket victory in the opening Test at Southampton last week.

“It’s one day at a time for us. England are a very good cricket team, they’ve got some world class players so we’ve got our work cut out in order to win another game.

“We don’t get too far ahead of ourselves. This group has done an outstanding job not only in this Test series so far but in the last couple years in terms of our results.”

He continued: “It’s a series we’re playing, whether we’re playing against Bangladesh, Pakistan, England or Australia, and whenever we start a series we want to win the series.

“Winning the first Test match is just one piece of the puzzle. We’ve got two games to play and we don’t get ahead of ourselves to be honest. That’s the last thing we could ever do in terms of getting complacent and getting too far ahead.

“It’s about us starting fresh [and playing] 10 solid days of cricket … yes we’ve won one game but that doesn’t change anything for us in our strategies and executing our team plans.

“If we’re going to win a series here, we’ve got our work cut and we’ve got to play some solid cricket. But not playing solid cricket for one game, we’ve got to back it up.

“The second Test match has come, the last Test match is gone so it’s all to play for here in this second one.”

Despite being holders of the Wisden Trophy, West Indies were tagged as underdogs prior to the start of the series, principally due to their recent dire record on English soil and the hosts’ dominance at home.

However, the Caribbean side outplayed England over the first four days at the Ageas bowl, before successfully chasing down 200 on last Sunday’s final day to snatch a 1-0 lead in the three-Test “bio-secure” series.

But even with the weight of history now hovering over Holder’s unit, the 28-year-old said the touring side remained unperturbed by the hype and conjecture swirling around the Test and the significance of the outcome.

“It’s no pressure for us. We don’t get caught up in the off-the-field noise with everyone talking,” a relaxed Holder pointed out.

“More or less we’re just here to play cricket and each individual has a role within the team and we are focussing on our individual roles to bring together a strong collective effort.

“So we don’t hear the noise on the outside. We’re just focussing on what we have to do in order to win the series.”

He continued: “I haven’t mentioned anything about history to the guys. Again, it’s hard for us to get caught up in the peripheral stuff. We’re here to play cricket and we’re here to win this series.

“For us to study and take on the stuff irrelevant to us and things that we don’t have control over, to me it makes no sense. We’ve got control over the cricket we play and that’s the only thing I [convey] to the guys … how are we going to win a cricket game? What do we need to do in order to win a cricket game?

“And once the guys share information together to get that end result, afterwards we can look back and feel pleased with whatever we achieve as a group.”

West Indies have returned to familiar surroundings at Old Trafford where they spent nearly a month preparing in a “bio-secure” bubble following their arrival in the United Kingdom early last month.

And even though the venue hosted their two ‘inter-squad’ tour matches, Holder pushed back on suggestions the ground provided an element of comfort for his side.

“I don’t think it is an advantage. Most of these English players have played here more than us so I think we’re still in their backyard,” he noted.

“It’s good that we had a couple weeks here to prepare but more or less it’s still a level playing field when the cricket starts tomorrow. If anything, England will still have the edge, they know the conditions a lot better than we do and all of them would’ve played county games here day in and day out.

“They’ve got the best knowledge about the ground and it’s about us coming here over the last two weeks [of the tour] and trying to understand the conditions here in Manchester.”

West Indies are expected to have their full 15 available for selection with opener John Campbell having recovered from a blow to the toe sustained in the first Test.

SQUADS:

WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Chemar Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach.

ENGLAND – Joe Root (captain), Ben Stokes, Jofra Archer, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Sam Curran, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson.

CMC

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