It was a long wait for Test cricket to return from the Covid-19 hiatus, and it did not disappoint, with a thrilling 1st Test match between England and the West Indies. Pushed deep into Day 5, the West Indies held their nerve in a dramatic run chase to claim a sensational victory. Can they back it up in the 2nd Test? Here's our preview and cricket betting tips for the 2nd Test which starts on Thursday night.
The West Indies weren’t expected to do much in this tough tour of England. If they had a chance, it was in the first Test to set the tone for the series. And that's exactly what they did. They capitalised on cloudy overhead conditions in the first two days to bundle England out for 204 in the first innings. They then displayed the tenacity and persistence required in a tense Day 5 run chase to win an international Test against one of the best teams in the world.
As has been the case in several instances in the last few years, England’s batsmen were guilty of throwing away good starts in both innings. The highest score in the Southampton Test by an England batsman was a gritty 76 off 127 balls by Zak Crawley in the second innings. From an individual standpoint, that might not have been enough because Joe Root returns to captain England in this game. It will also mean he slots in at No. 4 to plausibly replace Crawley.
There was a lot of heart and spirit from West Indies’ bowlers in the first Test. Shannon Gabriel took the Player-of-the-Match award for a match haul of nine wickets. Jason Holder even added to his impressive stack of five-wicket hauls with a 6 for 42 in the first innings in swing-friendly conditions.
However, after a heavy workout in Southampton, it will be interesting to see how hungry they are for a Test series win. I’d suspect England’s management would have stressed on the importance of converting starts. It gets additionally harder with the return of England’s best batsman, Root. West Indies bowled a little under 180 overs in the first Test (about two days of full cricket). In placid batting conditions in Manchester, they might have to bowl as many in the first innings alone if overhead conditions aren’t as friendly as in Southampton.
Now, to the other duel - England’s bowling against West Indies’ batsmen. Stuart Broad didn’t hold back in a mid-game interview with Sky after he was dropped in favour of Mark Wood, a bowler with more pace and penetration off the pitch. The reasoning for that decision was that West Indies struggled against Wood’s pace in the return series in St. Lucia on the previous tour. Broad described his feelings as “angry and gutted”. For a bowler with 485 Test wickets, that was a blow to his work ethic. He also mentioned when he returns, he will be on. Broad should slot right back into the attack in place of Wood.
West Indies’ batsmen looked solid right through the Southampton Test. Roston Chase had steady contributions in both innings and finished with a combined 84 runs in the match. Kraigg Brathwaite, Shane Dowrich and Jermaine Blackwood all chipped in with crucial half-centuries as well. However, a massive, recurring problem for West Indies has been consistency. They might have to face up to Broad and Anderson’s combined grumpy wrath.
Overall, I’d say England’s batsmen will start the game well. Broad and Anderson work beautifully in tandem, which means West Indies’ technique will be tested more than in Southampton.
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