1st Test bowls off tomorrow; bowlers may dominate series

England tour of the West Indies…
– Kookaburra balls replaced by swinging Dukes

By Brandon Corlette

The first Test match will bowl off tomorrow, Wednesday, January 23, 2019 from 10:00h at the Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados.
The Jason Holder-led West Indies team will have at the back of their minds that the Duke ball will suit the English swing-kings, Stuart Broad and James Anderson. In the last five Test matches between West Indies and England, West Indies lost three matches and won two. The Duke balls that will be used in the Test series are slightly altered from those used in England: they last longer in the abrasive Caribbean conditions.
In May 2015, West Indies registered a five-wicket win against the Englishmen at the familiar Kensington Oval venue. Jamaican Jermaine Blackwood was the star of the show, in his player-of-the-match performance that saw Windies chase down a target of 192. England took first strike in that encounter and scored 257 runs all out, with Alistair Cook scoring 105 and Moeen Ali contributing 58. Jerome Taylor and Jason Holder had three wickets each in a disciplined bowling effort. Windies’ first innings saw a familiar batting collapse when they were bundled out for 189, with Blackwood scoring an aggressive 85.

Joe Root and Jason Holder

Windies returned with the ball in the second innings, and bowled out England for 123 when Holder and Taylor repeated their disciplined bowling performance with three wickets each. Darren Bravo and Jermaine Blackwood took Windies over the line with scores of 82 and 47* respectively.
The other instance where West Indies defeated the Englishmen was the monumental win when Shai Hope’s twin centuries took the Caribbean team across the line.
West Indies have included two newbies in the squad for the upcoming match in Shamarh Brooks and John Campbell. Brooks is a 30-year-old middle-order Barbadian batsman, who came through the ranks, as a natural leader. The right hander played 67 First-Class matches scoring 3347 runs at an average of 33, including five centuries and 19 half-centuries.
Meanwhile, Campbell is the more likely candidate for the first Test to open the batting with Kraigg Brathwaite. Campbelle is a 25-year-old left-handed Jamaican opener, who has 55 First-Class matches under his belt. The elegant Campbell has 3037 runs at an average of 30 with three centuries and 18 half-centuries.

Duke balls will replace Kookaburras

Darren Bravo, who is returning to the Test squad, will bring his wealth of experience to the table. He is expected to play his 50th Test on Wednesday; the stroke maker has 3400 Test runs at an average of exactly 40 with eight centuries and 16 half-centuries.
The classy Hope will be the batsman to watch out for along with the dangerous Shimron Hetmyer and the valuable all-rounders, Jason Holder and Roston Chase. Shane Dowrich is expected to score some runs in the lower order for the West Indies. Windies bowling department will be led by Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach and the ever-consistent Holder.
England players have acclimatised in the pair of two-day matches played at the Three Ws Oval; the batting will be led by world-class batsman Joe Root, and the bowling department will heavily depend on Anderson and Broad.
The England Head Coach Trevor Bayliss is hoping that the specially designed Duke balls play into their hands in the Test series. Research has shown that the English bowlers struggle with the Kookaburra balls, but the England team had their first look at the ball in the practice matches, where they took 30 wickets in two days.
Cricket West Indies (CWI) executive Johnny Grave decided that the use of the Duke ball would provide more entertaining cricket to avoid the attritional encounters that were seen in recent times. However, Graves believes that the Windies bowling attack is potent, although Anderson and Broad have 998 Test wickets between themselves.
Test series between England and West Indies in the past have been exhilarating contests; from the Brian Lara record-breaking feat and the Jerome Taylor burst to English support from the large “Barmy army”. Looking beyond Test series between these two teams, the World T20 final in 2016 which England will always remember for the Caribbean team ending their World T20 dreams. The Kensington Oval is expected to be transformed into an exciting stage, where Windies and the Caribbean supporters will battle against their former masters.