SOUTHAMPTON: Big fast bowlers from Barbados will be leading rival attacks in a crucial ICC World Cup encounter here on Friday: One for the West Indies, and one for England.
West Indies coach Floyd Reifer says Barbados-born Jofra Archer “made his choice” when he moved to England.
West Indies skipper Jason Holder, when asked if his fellow Barbadian would even make the cut for his team, described Archer as “English.” And so, of course, his answer was “no.” Short-pitch bowling has become one of the hot topics of a World Cup that was supposed to be dominated by batsmen.
The more scorching the pace, it seems, the more interest.
Archer was a late inclusion in England’s World Cup squad on residency grounds, and lit up the tournament opener with three wickets in the win over South Africa at The Oval.
Not to be outshone, a quartet of big West Indies quicks bounced out Pakistan for 105 in their opening win to set a distinctly 1970s and 80s-era Caribbean tone for the tournament. Pakistan rebounded by upsetting top-ranked England. The West Indies followed up by having Australia reeling at 79-5 before letting the defending champions off the hook.
The scene has been set at Hampshire’s Rose Bowl for the pacemen, weather permitting. The West Indies took two early wickets to have South Africa in trouble at 29-2 here on Monday before their match was washed out in the eighth over. The forecast is for the rain to clear by Friday.
England captain Eoin Morgan is expecting a barrage of short-pitch bowling and some big hitting from West Indies opener Chris Gayle, just as his team faced in their most recent series in the Caribbean, which was split 2-2. England were bowled out for 113 in the fifth and final game on March 2, and West Indies raced to a seven-wicket win in 12.1 overs.
It was the only recent bilateral ODI series England weren’t able to win.
Morgan thinks the pitch is unlikely to offer as much bounce for the West Indies, and England will be better prepared for it, anyway.
“We learnt a huge amount about growing our game out in the West Indies, the fact that we are not getting carried away about some of the success we have had,” Morgan said. “I think it’s important to have days where you are beaten or can’t beat a side because you then look even more into areas of improvement, as opposed to beating sides convincingly.”
Holder is among those who know Archer and what to expect from him.
“I have seen Jofra over the years. He is obviously a Barbadian. He’s grown up in Barbados playing cricket so … what I’m seeing of Jofra doesn’t surprise me,” Holder said. “It is just unfortunate how things went in terms of his decision-making, but he is a good talent.
“As I said before, he’s English. I’m not going to get flustered over it. Our role in this World Cup is to play against England in this game tomorrow and our role is to beat England.”
‘BRAINS AND BRAWN’
Holder said his resurgent side are using their brains as well as brawn ahead of the clash with England.
With pace in abundance from the likes of Oshane Thomas, Andre Russell, Sheldon Cottrell, as well as Holder himself, the West Indies have an attack to worry every team.
But Holder believes it is their ability to outfox batsmen in the middle overs that has sparked an upturn in form since the 2015 World Cup — a four-year period in which they did not win an ODI series.
“We have always got wickets with the new ball,” Holder said in his pre-match press conference.
“But previously we haven’t been able to get wickets in the middle overs.
“And it’s been the talking point over the last couple of months in one-day cricket and now in this tournament we have been able to get wickets in the middle overs, which has definitely broken the back of most teams.”
Following the South Africa no result, the England game has taken on even greater importance for the West Indies.
And Holder expects his side to throw all they have at the hosts.
“I think the brand of cricket we have been playing so far in this World Cup, you know what to expect of West Indies now,” he said. “For us, we are not going to back down from the challenge. Most of our guys are always up for the challenge and it is just a matter for us to be smart.”
Meanwhile, England fast bowler Mark Wood could miss the match against the West Indies following a recurrence of his longstanding ankle problems.
Wood suffered discomfort in his left ankle after England’s win over Bangladesh in Cardiff on Saturday, when the Durham quick recorded the fastest delivery of the tournament so far at 95.6mph (153.9kph). The 29-year-old has undergone three major operations on his ankle.
Morgan said Wood’s latest injury problem did not mean he was facing the end of his World Cup.
“It’s nothing too serious, he just pulled up a little bit sore from the game in Cardiff — he’s the only concern at the moment,” Morgan said on Thursday.
“Mark is going to have a fitness test in the morning. If it is still sore, we probably won’t take a risk.” Wood’s place could go to Moeen Ali, who did not play against Bangladesh, should England again decide to play a second specialist spinner alongside leg-spinner Adil Rashid.