Simmons ‘extremely pleased’ as West Indies quicks seize moment

Cricket

West Indies head coach Phil Simmons hailed his bowling attack’s persistence and patience after five late wickets put his team into the driving seat against England.

When Zak Crawley and Ben Stokes combined for a fluent partnership of 98, the bulk of which were made after the tea interval, it had looked as though the game was drifting away from West Indies, who had managed only three wickets in the day. But after Jason Holder removed Stokes for the second time in the match, Alzarri Joseph and Shannon Gabriel took two wickets apiece in quick spells which seemed to vindicate Holder’s emphasis on discipline and patience throughout the match.

“It showed the persistence of the bowlers,” Simmons said. “We’d been fighting all day and Stokes and Zak started to take the bowling apart. But the persistence of Jason [was rewarded] and then Alzarri’s spell was a huge spell too.

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“I’m extremely pleased with the way the bowlers bowled today – both when two batters [Rory Burns and Dom Sibley] batted before lunch and more so when Stokes and Crawley were trying to take it away from us.

“The patience we exhibited has been something that we’ve been asking for for a while, and today it showed up. We bore the fruit of that in the evening session. You can’t really say much more – they stuck to their tasks.”

In particular, the flurry of wickets before the close seemed to reward Holder’s sparing use of his two strike bowlers earlier in the day.

While it would have been tempting to throw Gabriel and Joseph the ball and ask them to target England’s top three with bouncers, Holder instead split the bulk of the workload between the relentless Kemar Roach, himself, and offspinner Roston Chase, choking England’s scoring on a slow pitch.

That meant that Joseph had bowled only 11 of the day’s 80 overs when he returned to bowl with the second new ball still offering movement, and the rewards were immediate: his was the fastest spell of the innings, and accounted for both Crawley – caught and bowled in his follow-through – and Buttler, who was bowled through the gate.

Gabriel, too, was fresh upon his return after only 12 overs in the day, and twice beat Dom Bess in the off-stump channel in the first over of his spell before knocking out his off pole in his second. Four balls later, he got one to lift from a length which Ollie Pope only managed to chop on, leaving England eight wickets down with a slender lead of 165.

Simmons said that there had not been a specific plan to leave some energy in the tank moving into the final hour, but hailed Holder’s management of his bowlers throughout the match so far.

“It’s just how the captain sees it when he’s out there,” Simmons said. “That’s just the way he rotated his bowlers today, and it worked well for us in the end.

“When [Alzarri] is bowling like he bowled this evening here, he’s always going to be a threat to any batting line-up we play against. That’s the thought we are trying to get in his head: that this is the type of spell we want from him and need from him.

“Part of Test cricket is about patience, especially when you have wickets like this to play on, and it’s something that we’ve been working on hard – not getting bored at doing the simple things and the basic things for a while to put people under pressure. I’m glad to see it’s working, and guys are thinking about what we’ve been working on.”

Simmons gave further praise to Gabriel, who has now taken seven wickets in his first first-class appearance since last September following a long ankle lay-off.

“It shows his desire to play for West Indies, coming back from ankle surgery and doing all the hard work he’s done. Even during lockdown in Trinidad, he was finding ways to train to get himself fit for this series. You can only compliment him.

“I’m sure that Jason is happy to have him, Roach is happy to have him as an opening partner, and Alzarri is coming up with them. It’s great to see the combination and how they’re working together. That’s the important thing, how they bowl together and it’s showing and it’s improving.”

As for the fourth innings, Simmons suggested that the benefit of late wickets was that it meant there would be little in the way of scoring pressure on his batsmen.

“We’ve got to get the two wickets, and whatever is put in front of us, we have a day to bat. The confidence from the way we batted and the attitude towards batting in the first innings is going to be a huge plus for us when we bat in the second innings.

“Whether we’re chasing 170 or 190, it’s going to be the same attitude that we need to chase it. I have confidence in that.”

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