Windies upbeat by batsmen's form ahead of Hamilton Test

Wednesday, December 02, 2020

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HAMILTON, New Zealand (CMC) — Buoyed by the form of their batsmen and an apparently seamless acclimatisation process, an upbeat West Indies enter the opening Test starting here today, confident of ending their 25-year series drought on New Zealand soil.

Ever since Courtney Walsh's side came away with a 1-0 victory in a two-match series in 1995, the Caribbean side have left the south Pacific empty-handed, leaving them with eight defeats in 12 appearances and without a single Test win.

The last tour here three years ago was less than memorable as West Indies lost both Tests by heavy margins, with neither match going the distance.

There has been cause for optimism, however, largely based on two impressive showings in the two warm-up matches in Queenstown.

Left-hander Darren Bravo sparkled with a hundred in the three-day game while Shamarh Brooks hit a half-century, and opener Kraigg Brathwaite stroked a double hundred in the just concluded four-day match while Bravo just missed out on three figures and Jermaine Blackwood chipped in with a fifty.

And even though West Indies suffered a thrashing in last weekend's Twenty20 series losing two of the three matches with the last one rained off, Head Coach Phil Simmons said he did not expect the Test side to feel any impact from these defeats since they were riding on the momentum from the tour matches.

“The T20s and Tests are different,” Simmons said ahead of the opening Test at Seddon Park here.

“The Test team has done well in Queenstown and have enjoyed a tough four-day game and they are now coming into the Test series with some confidence, especially the batsmen who haven't had that for a while.

“So I think the Test team is in a good place. [We're] disappointed with the T20s but moving onto the Test series now.”

He continued: “As I said, the Test team is in a good place and I don't think the results of the T20s will affect the way they think and the way they prepare.”

West Indies face a massive challenge against a strong Black Caps side which have lost just one Test series at home inside the last five years — a 1-0 defeat to South Africa in a three-match series in 2017.

In contrast, Jason Holder's side have struggled over the same period with a single Test series win over a major side, coming when they stunned England in the Caribbean last year.

All told, West Indies have won only six of their last 20 Tests, leaving them starved of international success and seventh in the newly-created World Test Championship.

Simmons, who resumed leadership of the side last October, said West Indies were heavily focused on winning matches and forcing their way up the tables.

“”It (Test Championship) is extremely significant,” he explained.

“I think it's a format that we haven't done well in for a long time and we're trying to get ourselves back into the higher ends of the table where Test cricket is concerned.

“And because of that, initially we want to do that in the Test Championship but at the same time we want to be winners in Test cricket itself, so it's important for us.”

He added: “Your aim is always to do well. Your aim is always to win cricket matches and I think that's our aim in both the A team and CWI XI games and Test matches. Our aim is to play cricket so that we can win each game.”

The tour marks the second of the year for the Caribbean side who created history last July by travelling to England for a three-Test series against the hosts, amid the ongoing coronavirus pandemic.

Unlike the England tour, however, West Indies have not been faced with the challenge of playing in a “biosecure” bubble, largely due to New Zealand's excellent handling of the pandemic.

There have been only 2,059 cases, 72 of which remain active. Deaths have been limited to 25.

West Indies were still forced to undergo a two-week quarantine after arriving here in October but Simmons believes the process played a vital role in his side's preparation.

“I think it was a good thing we had to do 14 days [of quarantine] in which we practised and then we had a three-day and four-day game,” he explained.

“Some of the young players who haven't been here have gotten a little bit accustomed to Test cricket conditions here which, I think, is going to be similar from where we were to here.

“I think they will offer a lot of mental strength having gone through the period that we went through there. We are going to push hard for them to put up the score they put up in the last four-day game.”

West Indies posted 571 against New Zealand “A” behind Brathwaite's career-best 246.

The opening Test bowls off at 6:00 pm Eastern Caribbean time.

SQUADS: NEW ZEALAND – Kane Williamson (captain), Tom Blundell, Trent Boult, Kyle Jamieson, Tom Latham, Daryl Mitchell, Henry Nicholls, Ajaz Patel, Tim Southee, Ross Taylor, Neil Wagner, B J Watling, Will Young, Devon Conway.

WEST INDIES – Jason Holder (captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Chemar Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Keemo Paul, Kemar Roach.

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