West Indies v Pakistan series provides pointers to the summer

May 15, 2017

The first ever day-night test match in England will be one of the highlights of the summer, as England face the West Indies at Edgbaston with the pink ball under floodlights.

Such a prospect may itself be enough for fans keen to witness such a spectacle to start booking corporate hospitality. However, the action on the field also promises to be exciting, with the West Indians likely to field a stronger side in England than in the Test series they have just completed at home to Pakistan, due to the return of some players who have been in the Indian Premier League.

The three-match series finished yesterday (May 14th) with Pakistan winning the third and final test at Roseau by 101 runs, ensuring a 2-1 series win - their first ever Test triumph in the Caribbean - and providing the perfect send-off for the retiring veterans Misbah-ul-Haq and Younis Khan. That Pakistan provided strong opponents should come as no surprise, as anyone who watched their 2-2 draw in England last year will testify; unless the pitches are fast and bouncy, they are extremely tough opponents.

Despite the loss, the West Indies showed some positive signs in the series and there are several players to watch out for in England.

Shannon Gabriel may be the most exciting of all. A throwback to the giant West Indian fast bowler of yesteryear, Gabriel is a bowler of serious pace who, when everything clicks, can be devastatingly effective.

This was shown in the second Test in Barbados, when Pakistan were set a target of only 188 to win. On a tricky pitch, Gabriel was almost unplayable, taking 5-11 in 11 overs as the tourists were blown away for only 81. He finished the series with 15 wickets at 18.8.

In a fairly low-scoring series, Pakistan only passed 400 once - when they made 407 in the first Test in Jamaica - and the West Indies only topped 300 once, which suggests ether that the pitches were very bowler-friendly - which was certainly true in Barbados - or that the bowling on both sides was a bit stronger than the batting. In either case, the impressive batting of Roston Chase makes him a man to watch in England this summer.

Chase made scores of 63, 16 not out, 131, 23, 69 and 101 not out, with the last of these innings almost steering the side to a draw at Roseau that would have left the series drawn. While his Bradmanesque average of 100.75 might be difficult to replicate in England, the 25 year-old may be a rising star of the Test scene. With three centuries and an average of 48.53 from his first ten Tests, he has certainly looked the part.

The West Indies will certainly have sent much stronger teams to England down the years; few sides in history can compare with the mighty team that ruled the cricket world in the 1970s and 80s. However, while the current side may not have so many superstars or the consistency of teams gone by, England will underestimate the rising stars of the West Indian team at their peril.

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