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Injury-stricken WI face an uphill task against goliaths of D/N Tests

Last updated on 06 Dec 2022 | 03:14 PM
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Injury-stricken WI face an uphill task against goliaths of D/N Tests

Nkrumah Bonner (concussion), Kemar Roach (hamstring) & Kyle Mayers (shoulder) are in doubt for the second Test in Adelaide

The last time when the West Indies won a Test in Australia (February 1997), neither Joshua Da Silva nor Jayden Seales were born. Alzarri Joseph (3 months) and Tagenarine Chanderpaul (9 months) were still toddlers, and none of the other West Indies current squad players were out of school.

Let alone a win in Australia, they haven’t won a match against them in home or away, since the world record chase in 2003.

If they are to end this drought, they need a miraculous effort. Just a reminder, the second Test is a day/night Test and Australia are unconquered till now. In 10 matches, Australia have a 100% win record (no draws or losses). On the other hand, West Indies are the only team to play multiple pink-ball Tests without a win or a draw. Justifies the above statement of them needing a miracle.   

A masterclass by two modern great batters, Marnus Labuschagne (204 & 104*) & Steve Smith (200* & 20*) in the first innings, took the first Test away from West Indies in Perth. In hindsight, the bowling department of the men in maroon was toothless.

Marching into the first Test as the best pace unit in terms of average (23.5) and the second best in terms of strike rate (47.1), they were unable to create any sort of pressure. Throughout the Test, they managed to bag only six wickets.

Heading into the second game in Adelaide, they need to address a lot of issues, starting with their injuries. Roach suffered a hamstring injury, but is expected to play. However, if not 100 percent fit, then playing him could backfire West Indies, especially this being a pink ball Test. Mayers in the second innings didn’t bowl owing to a shoulder injury. In the batting department, Bonner coped a blow on his helmet in the first innings and was concussed out of the match, for the second time in his Test career. He was replaced by Shamarh Brooks. Mayers might be available as batter only and Bonner is not expected to play.

If injury is one concern, their middle order (4-6) batters is the other area Windies would be pondering upon. In Tests since 2020, the West Indian middle order has averaged 29.2, the worst among all teams. Roston Chase, their all-rounder, wants their middle-order to take a leaf out of their openers. “The opening partnership was a great sight. If the other batters take a leaf out of the openers, then we will be a force to be reckoned with. The middle order showed glimpses of what they could do, but couldn’t cash in,” Chase said.

With the middle order struggling, the focus once again shifts towards their skipper Kraigg Brathwaite. Why wouldn’t it be when he has been the best West Indian batter this year in Tests. Overall, among batters with 10+ innings this year, only Dinesh Chandimal (719 runs at 102.7) and Usman Khawaja (959 at 87.2) have a better average than Brathwaite (665 runs at 73.4).

To emboss more, his first Test century came in 2014, since then, he has been the only West Indian opener to score a century (11 tons). After suffering his worst phase from 2019 till February 2021, the permanent captaincy has brought life to his batting. 

Also Read: The (jarring) fall and (extraordinary) rise of Kraigg Brathwaite

Marvelous Marnus, West Indies’ biggest obstacle

The start to the year 2022, wasn’t great for Marnus Labuschagne. Till June, in 10 innings, he had scored only 289 runs at an average of 28.9 with one 50+ score. But, in his last four innings, he has made it up. Marnus has scored 444 runs at an average of 148 and three centuries. Overall this year, he has scored 733 runs at an average of 56.4, making this the fourth consecutive year in which he has average 55+.

In addition, in 10 innings of pink-ball Tests, Marnus has scored 692 runs at an average of 69.2 with three centuries. His three tons are the most for a batter in D/N Tests. Among 13 batters who have scored 250+ runs, his average is also the highest.

However, there was a phase in the second innings where he looked off-color. When Joseph decided to attack him with bumpers, Marnus was in discomfort. If not for the overstep, Joseph would have had him when he was batting on 19. Throughout the Test, Marnus batted with a false shot percentage of 13.5 (22.6 percent of balls) when bowled on back of a length and 28.6 (7.1 percent) when bowled short (10m+). In the second innings, he had a false shot percentage of 28 percent on BOL and 36.4 percent on short deliveries.

In the press conference, the West Indies assistant coach Roddy Estwick did not rule out this plan. He said “I’m not here to give away plans, but we will have a look. We will see his uncomfortable areas, his uncomfortable moments, and we will try and target them as much as possible”.

Watch-out for the Australian pace triplet

There is a cloud of uncertainty over Pat Cummins’ availability for the second Test. Because of a quad strain, Cummins didn’t bowl in the second innings. “It’s a small strain, normally about a one-weeker. If I bowl, it makes it worse and can make it longer. I’ll spend the next few days in rehabilitation and I think it’s a pretty good chance I’ll be fit for Adelaide '' – Cummins on his injury.

If the skipper is fit, then West Indies batters have to battle their way out. The pace trio have been deadly when it comes to D/N Tests. Mitchell Starc has played all 10 and has 56 wickets, which is 22 more than Nathan Lyon at second. He has a bowling strike rate of 36.1. Cummins (33) and Josh Hazlewood (32) have 30+ wickets at a balls/wicket ratio of 35.1 and 44.9.     

Team News:

Australia have given a maiden call-up to Lance Morris, the West Australian fast bowler, and Michael Neser has been added as back-up for the doubtful skipper Cummins. If Cummins is fit, Australia would not tinker with their winning combination. If not, Steve Smith could be the captain and either Scott Boland or Morris could be in contention.

Probable XI: David Warner, Usman Khawaja, Marnus Labuschagne, Steve Smith, Travis Head, Alex Carey (wk), Cameron Green, Pat Cummins/Scott Boland/Lance Morris, Mitchell Starc, Nathan Lyon, Josh Hazlewood.

As mentioned earlier, the West Indies are plagued by some injuries. Roach and Mayers are still not 100 percent starters. Windies don’t have Bonner and Brooks is likely to be the number three in the second Test as well. In case Roach is not fit, then either Anderson Phillip or a debut could be handed to Marquino Mindley. Raymon Reifer is the other option for Mayers.

Probable XI: Kraigg Brathwaite (c), Tagenarine Chanderpaul, Shamarh Brooks, Jermaine Blackwood, Kyle Mayers/Raymon Reifer, Jason Holder, Joshua Da Silva (wk), Roston Chase, Alzarri Joseph, Jaden Seales, Kemar Roach/ Anderson Phillip/ Marquino Mindley.

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