Vasbert Drakes says the pace of former sprinter Chemar Holder can make a fierce West Indies attack even more potent in the Test series against England.

Uncapped 22-year-old Holder was named in the touring party following some outstanding domestic performances for Barbados Pride in the West Indies Championship.

The Barbadian gave a demonstration of his huge potential back in 2016 when the Windies won the Under-19 Cricket World Cup and could make his senior debut during a three-match series in England, which starts behind closed doors at the Ageas Bowl next Wednesday.

Former West Indies fast bowler and assistant coach Drakes has helped to nurture Holder's talent and thinks he can cause England problems if he is given an opportunity.

Drakes told Stats Perform News: "I've known Chemar from a young age, he went to school with my son, Dominic, and they have come through the system together and been part of the group of West Indies Emerging Players.

"I have done some one-to-one coaching work with him and he's got some good attributes, good skill sets. He's a hard worker and used to be a sprinter, he was a 400 metres runner and also competed in the 1500 metres.

"When he gets it right, he's consistently in the high 80s [miles per hour]. The only way to find out if he's ready is to throw him in at the deep end against England.

"He would have played against England A team last year and would have gone to England the year before that as part of the Emerging Players group, so he would have had the experience of bowling in those conditions."

Kemar Roach was among 12 members of the Windies squad who Drakes worked with before they flew out to England for the first international cricket since the coronavirus pandemic brought the vast majority of sport to a halt.

Roach was man of the series when West Indies won a Test series against England in the Caribbean last year and Drakes, who was assistant coach for that 2-1 triumph, says he can make a big impact again.

Asked if Roach will be the spearhead of the attack, he replied: "Absolutely. One of the things he did well last year was he took early wickets.

"Without giving away too much methodology in how to deconstruct the opposition gameplan and counter them, Kemar Roach has the ability to take early wickets, releasing the ball from wide of the crease and moving away from batsmen - particularly the right-handers.

"His track record against left-handers is phenomenal and England have some left-handers. Kemar and Jason [captain Holder], they set the tone along with [Alzarri] Joseph and Shannon Gabriel can be a threat with his pace and uncertainty he creates.

"It will be interesting to see if that combination can work as it did in the Caribbean."

England all-rounder Sam Curran will return to training this weekend after testing negative for COVID-19.

Curran pulled out of an intra-squad practice match in Southampton, which ends on Friday, as he was suffering from sickness and diarrhoea.

The 22-year-old was tested for coronavirus on Thursday and the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) revealed he has been given the all-clear.

Curran has been self-isolating in his hotel room at the Ageas Bowl but is set to re-join his team-mates ahead of the first Test against West Indies, which starts next Wednesday.

He will be tested for COVID-19 again on Sunday along with the rest of the England team and management group.

Kyle Mayers missed out on a century on the final day of the West Indies’ four-day intra-squad match at the Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester, running out of partners, while Shannon Gabriel picked up four wickets in a low-scoring draw.

With the first day and a part of the second a wash-out, the West Indies intra-squad game came down to a one-inning affair and by necessity, a draw.

There were two points of interest with the bat, none of them coming from the usual suspects.

On day three Joshua Da Silva scored an unbeaten 133 as Jason Holder’s XI recovered from 120-5 on Tuesday to post 272 against the bowling of Preston McSween, 3-28, and Chemar Holder, 2-35.

There was also a wicket apiece for Oshane Thomas, 1-24, Keon Harding, 1-69, Markino Mindley, 1-32, Anderson Phillip, 1-16, and Rahkeem Cornwall, 1-32.

Da Silva formed good partnerships with Raymon Reifer, who scored 22, and Alzarri Joseph, who scored 38. On Wednesday, only Sunil Ambris, with 25 managed a score in the double digits.

In fact, the next best scorer for Holder’s XI, who faced a team led by his vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite, was the extras column, with 43 runs going a-begging.

In reply, Brathwaite’s XI scored a paltry 178 all out, the only bright element of the innings coming from Kyle Mayers, who scored an unbeaten 74, running out of partners before he could get to three figures.

But Mayers failure to get to three figures wasn't for a lack of effort. He was savage, scoring his 74 from just 56 deliveries in which he clubbed three sixes and nine fours.

Shannon Gabriel was the pick of the bowlers for Holder’s XI, showing himself to be somewhere back to full fitness with an impressive bowling performance of 4-42.

Kemar Roach, 2-25, Holder, 1-21, Joseph, 2-64, and Reifer, 1-21, also got in on the action.

The West Indies are in preparation mode for the #RaisetheBat series against England, with the first match of a three-Test affair slated to begin on July 8 at the Rose Bowl in South Hampton.

The team will then play in two games at their Old Trafford base on July 16 and 24.

West Indies fast bowler Shannon Gabriel has been included in the Test squad for the upcoming series against England.

Initially, the 32-year-old quick was included as a reserve, having recovered from an ankle injury in the past several months.  With no competitive cricket available to the player during the COVID-19 pandemic, doubts had surfaced regarding his fitness.

Gabriel has, however, proven himself match fit over the last couple of weeks and is expected to return to the bowling line-up.  In the warm-up matches, the bowler has claimed eight wickets at an average of just over 15.

Thursday was the last day of the West Indies' second and final warm-up game.  The team’s coach Phil Simmons returned to the bench after his latest negative coronavirus test.

West Indies captain Jason Holder, who has struggled for form with the bat, tried to gain more time in the middle by promoting himself up the order to open the batting for his team, against the Kraigg Brathwaite XI.  The all-rounder could only manage two off 15 deliveries, for a total of just seven runs in the warm-up games.

Gabriel was much better as he took four for 42 as Brathwaite's XI were bowled out for 178 in a drawn encounter, after resuming on 112 for seven.

West Indies interim batting coach Floyd Reifer has dismissed concerns about the team’s batting line-up, ahead of the Test series against England, insisting the unit is more than ready to adapt to difficult conditions.

Despite the team widely being acknowledged as having a potent bowling line-up heading into the series, many have raised concerns about how the Windies will fare at the crease against experienced English bowlers and potentially damp, cold conditions.

The absence of the talented duo of Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo, who opted out of the tour for health reasons, have done little to assuage those fears but Reifer, who was recently returned to the coaching unit, insists the team’s hard work so far gives them a good chance of success for the upcoming series.

“I keep hearing everyone saying they are concerned about our batting.  We have some experienced guys here and the boys have been working really hard,” Brathwaite told the Mason and Guest Radio program.

“We understand the English conditions now. Young Hope and Brathwaite who were here before are now experienced players…” he added.

“What we have been working on is playing the ball late, in the Caribbean, our batters tend to go fairly hard at the ball but we are working on playing the ball as late as possible, and trying to leave alone as many deliveries as possible on top of the off-stump.  It’s important when the ball is moving around you try to play as little as possible and rotate the strike.  We have been having a lot of discussion on battling their spells and building innings.”

The Caribbean team will not need to look far for an example of its batting line-up struggling in English conditions than the first Test of the tour three years ago.  After England made 514, the West Indies were dismissed for 168 and 137.

England all-rounder Sam Curran was tested for COVID-19 on Thursday after pulling out of the team's practice match in Southampton.

Curran was taken ill with sickness and diarrhoea overnight and has been self-isolating in his room at the Ageas Bowl.

A statement released by the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) reported Curran was feeling better as the day progressed but would play no further part in the intra-squad warm-up game being played between sides captained by Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler.

Curran scored 15 not out as Buttler's team posted 287-5 on Wednesday.

England are training and preparing at their Ageas Bowl "bubble" for the first of three behind-closed-doors Tests against West Indies, a series that begins next week.

Stokes will captain the hosts as skipper Joe Root attends the birth of his second child, with Curran's participation now a major doubt.

A left-arm swing bowler who also provides valuable lower-order runs, Curran played all six of England's away Tests in New Zealand and South Africa that comprised their 2019-20 winter schedule.

England will wear the Black Lives Matter logo on their shirts during the upcoming Test series against West Indies.

The Windies face England in behind closed doors games over the course of July, starting next Wednesday.

As a show of solidarity with the movement campaigning for racial equality, England's players will have "Black Lives Matter" displayed on the collar of their shirts throughout the three-match rubber after agreeing to do so with the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB).

The emblem was designed by Alisha Hosannah, the partner of Watford captain Troy Deeney, and has been added to Premier League shirts for all games since the resumption of elite football in England last month.

West Indies' players will wear an identical logo on their shirts.

"It is important to show solidarity to the black community and to raise much-needed awareness around the topics of equality and justice," said England captain Joe Root, who will miss the first Test in Southampton due to the birth of his second child.

"The England players and management are unified in this approach and will use the platform of international cricket to fully support the objective of eradicating racial prejudice wherever it exists.

"There has to be equal opportunity and equal rights for all. We hope by making this stance we can play our part in standing shoulder-to-shoulder as a team and we hope that by continuing to raise awareness we can move towards a society in which the colour of your skin and your background has no bearing on your opportunities.

"It is very simple, we believe there is no room for racism or any form of discrimination, anywhere."

 

Heading into the final day of their four-day intra-squad match at the Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester, the West Indies have continued to find the going tough with the bat, with the exception of wicketkeeper-batsman Joshua Da Silva.

Da Silva scored an unbeaten 133 as Jason Holder’s XI recovered from 120-5 yesterday to post 272 against the bowling of Preston McSween, 3-28, and Chemar Holder, 2-35.

There was also a wicket apiece for Oshane Thomas, 1-24, Keon Harding, 1-69, Markino Mindley, 1-32, Anderson Phillip, 1-16, and Rahkeem Cornwall, 1-32.

Da Silva formed good partnerships with Raymon Reifer, who scored 22, and Alzarri Joseph, who scored 38. Yesterday, only Sunil Ambris, with 25 managed a score in the double digits.

In fact, the next best scorer for Holder’s XI, who are competing against a team led by his vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite, was the extras column, with 43 runs going a-begging.

In reply, Brathwaite’s XI have found things just as difficult, with Kyle Mayers, on 43, and Mindley on nine, the batsmen at the crease with the score on 112-7 from just 25 overs.

Shannon Gabriel has been the pick of the bowlers for Holder’s XI with 3-34.

Kemar Roach, 1-14, Holder, 1-21, Joseph, 1-17, and Reifer, 1-21, have also got in on the action.

Earlier, Da Silva, batted for just over six hours, facing 248 deliveries for his tally and smacked 17 boundaries in a mature knock.

The West Indies are in preparation mode for the #RaisetheBat series against England, with the first match of a three-Test affair slated to begin on July 8 at the Rose Bowl in South Hampton.

The team will then play in two games at their Old Trafford base on July 16 and 24.

West Indies captain Jason Holder continues to struggle to shake off a bit of rust, or allay injury concerns, after being dismissed cheaply in the second and final intra-squad match at Emirates Old Trafford, on Tuesday.

This time around, the West Indies skipper made it to five, with his innings lasting just 13 deliveries.  The disappointment at the crease followed on the all-rounder’s golden duck in the first internal match that ended in a draw last week.

In addition to time away from the pitch, Holder has recently been bothered by what is thought to be a mild ankle injury.  Despite claims that he has not been hampered by it, Holder has looked less than comfortable at the crease.  In fact, he could have departed a lot sooner had Preston McSween held on to a relatively straightforward chance when the Windies skipper nudged the second ball of his innings to midwicket.  Holder had yet to score at the time.

Earlier, intermittent showers had wiped out the first four sessions of the four-day fixture but eased in time to allow play to start at 2:20 pm under lights.  Holder and Jermaine Blackwood were, unfortunately, part of a top-order collapse that saw Holder's side go from 79-1 to 108-5 against a Kraigg Brathwaite-led XI, before ending the day 120-5 when bad light stopped play.

 

England have confirmed Ben Stokes will captain the Test side against West Indies next week as Joe Root will attend the birth of his second child. 

Regular skipper Root will leave the team's training camp on Wednesday to be with his wife, Carrie, who is expecting their child later this week.

Due to coronavirus protocol, Root will need to self-isolate for seven days once he leaves the hospital, meaning he will miss the start of the first Test, which begins on July 8.

All-rounder Stokes, who is normally the vice-captain, will therefore fill in for Root as the skipper for the first of the three Tests.

Root is due to return to the role for the second Test, which begins in Manchester on July 13.

Mohammad Hafeez is among six Pakistan players given the all-clear to join the squad touring England after returning a second negative test for coronavirus.

Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan and Wahab Riaz are also set to join the team in Worcestershire, the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) confirmed on Tuesday.

Pakistan are due to play three Tests and three T20Is in England, but preparations for those matches were plunged into doubt after 10 players tested positive for COVID-19.

However, a PCB statement said: "Fakhar Zaman, Mohammad Hasnain, Mohammad Hafeez, Mohammad Rizwan, Shadab Khan and Wahab Riaz have tested negative for Covid-19 for the second time in three days and, as such, are now eligible to join the Pakistan men's national cricket team in Worcestershire.

"The players were retested on Monday, 29 June, following a first negative test on 26 June.

"The PCB will now start making their travel arrangements and the departure details will be shared in due course."

Kashif Bhatti, Haris Rauf, Haider Ali and Imran Khan tested positive for a second time earlier this week.

The rest of Pakistan's travelling party arrived in Manchester on Sunday and underwent testing prior to a 14-day isolation period in Worcestershire.

 

 

 

In just his sixth Test, Jermaine Blackwood showed class in scoring a century against England all the way back in 2015.

Two and a half years later, Blackwood had been dropped, having never made the three-figure mark in another innings.

In those two and a half fairly barren years, nobody doubted Blackwood’s talent. But everybody doubted his temperament.

He seemed too willing to throw his wicket away. Now Blackwood is back with the West Indies squad and despite scoring a duck in the first practice game before his side again takes on the might of the English in England, the Jamaican swears by the changes he has made to his game.

“I want to add a little bit more to my game and bat time. I'm really pushing hard for that and I'm really putting the mental work as well in, to bat time, Blackwood has said.

Once I bat time, I will score runs

He has not played Test cricket for two and a half years but he says: “This opportunity has come out and I have to grab it with both hands. I have something to go out there and prove against all the best bowlers in the world, I want to score runs against them."

Back in 2015, on a final day North Sound pitch, Blackwood’s West Indies faced a first-innings total from England of 399 thanks in large part to Ian Bell’s 143, Joe Root’s 83 and Ben Stokes’ 79.

The West Indies would end up well short of that total, scoring 295 in their reply but Blackwood’s innings got them close and helped the hosts stay in the contest and eventually come out with a draw.

Uncharacteristically, Blackwood was measured in his approach to the innings, batting for more than five and a half hours and facing 220 deliveries for an unbeaten 112.

Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 46, Kraigg Brathwaite, 39, and Marlon Samuels, 33, were the only other batsmen who offered any resistance to a bowling attack that read James Anderson, 2-67, Stuart Broad, 2-67, Chris Jordan, 1-46 and James Tredwell, 4-47.

Despite the quality of the bowling attack, Blackwood was not troubled, navigating the bowlers with skill beyond his years. After all, this was just his sixth Test match.

It would take 14 boundaries and two sixes for Blackwood to bring up his tally, the most classy of which was a straight hit off the bowling of Stokes.

But the signs of Blackwood’s nature were there even in that innings. While he showed good patience for much of the innings, the day could have ended earlier, as Blackwood did have some fortune.

He was caught off a no-ball from Ben Stokes on 21 and dropped at slip on 43, granted that chance was tough.

He was also peppered with short balls and even hit on the forearm, but Blackwood would stay put throughout, emerging from long slumbers of defending to audacious moments of attack.

If only there were more moments like that when the diminutive Jamaican would find that which is most needed in Test cricket, balance. He says he understands what to do these days, let’s wait to see if there is more in him like he managed to pull out on those fateful first two days of Test cricket all the way back in 2015.

Phil Simmons, a sort of gentle giant, was an explosive batsman and a more than useful allrounder for the West Indies and at the first-class level before he turned to coaching.

His greatest achievements as a player came while playing league cricket in England.

One season, playing for Leicestershire, he scored 1244 runs and took 56 wickets. In that season, Simmons was said to have been bowling very quickly, a change from his generally medium-paced efforts.

But before those exploits, Simmons, who played in England during the 1980s and ‘90s, said while playing in the Northeast of the country, he faced quite a bit of racial abuse.

"It's not a nice thing to face. Especially in the leagues where you're by yourself sometimes. It affected my wife when I was up there. It's not a nice thing.

"I played in three or four different leagues. It was one particular league up in the northeast."

Simmons was speaking before the West Indies revealed it will be using a Black Lives Matter logo created by partner of Watford City football club captain, Troy Deeney, Alisha Hosannah.

At the time, Simmons was as yet unsure about how the West Indies would show its unity with the Black Lives Matter movement.

The West Indies are in England for the #RaisyourBat series for the Wisden Trophy.

The three-Test series begins July 8 at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton with two other games scheduled for Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester.

Ben Stokes wants to continue with the same mindset should the England captaincy be bestowed upon him in the coming weeks.

England return to Test action next month with three matches against West Indies in the bio-secure stadiums in Manchester and Southampton, and they are set to be without skipper Joe Root when the first contest begins on July 8. 

Root is due to leave the team bubble to be with his wife for the birth of their second child and he will require a seven-day period of self-isolation before returning to camp.

That means vice-captain Stokes is set to deputise as skipper, despite concerns from former captain Kevin Pietersen that such a role would curb the all-rounder's attacking instincts.

Stokes is determined to remain the same man, though, even if he admits it will be hard to get the ball out of his hand when he is on a roll.

Stokes said: "If it's flat, I'll just chuck the ball to Jofra [Archer] and Broady [Stuart Broad] and Jimmy [Anderson] and say, 'On you go!'

"It is a tough one because when Joe asks me to come and bowl… if I'm not bowling well I know, right, I'm probably going to be taken off here.

"But then when I feel like I'm in a really good rhythm and don't want to be taken off, Joe doesn't say, 'Keep going.' He sort of looks and goes, 'One more?' And he'll say that for another four or five overs.

"I guess I might have to be a little bit more mindful as I'm the person who's making that decision, but if I've got the ball in my hand or I've got the bat in my hand, I would like to think I'm still going to have to that same mentality as I always do.

"I've been in so many different situations in the field as a batter and as a bowler that I can always relate back to them and think, 'Right, what did Joe expect of me in this situation?' But it's a tough one isn't it to know if you are feeling good as a bowler when to keep yourself on."

While others such as Alastair Cook, Andrew Strauss and Root had been earmarked to be England captain long before they were eventually handed the role, Stokes acknowledged few would have considered him as a skipper-in-waiting.

However, the 29-year-old believes he is ready for the position having played in 63 Tests since his debut in 2013.

"I've been a senior player since 2016 under Cooky and since Joe's been in charge," he added.

"Being able to learn from Alastair Cook and Rooty in terms of different situations throughout the game has rubbed off on me and will put me in good stead for all the different situations that a Test match can throw at you.

"At the same time, we've got some really experienced guys out in the field who I can use. We've got Jimmy, Broady, who've just got ample Test matches and wickets between them. There's so many people that you can throw ideas off.

"I would like to think I would be quite an open captain and wouldn't want my way is the only way. I don't think that's the best way to operate.

"There's 11 guys out in the field so why not get 10 other opinions on something that you're thinking about?"

The West Indies have become the latest team to don the logo of the Black Lives Matter campaign, skipper Jason Holder and co, having it affixed to the collar of the outfits set to be worn during the #RaisetheBat Test series, starting July 8.

The West Indies are in England to challenge for the Wisden Trophy, they won last year in the Caribbean.

The logo, designed by Alisha Hosannah, partner of Watford Football Club captain Troy Deeney, features a clenched fist, along with the words Black Lives Matter. The word ‘Black’ has the logo inserted where the ‘a’ should be.

Reports out of England are that the CWI approached Deeney for permission to use the logo as per the International Cricket Council (ICC) regulations.

“This is a pivotal moment in history for sports, for the game of cricket and for the West Indies cricket team. We have come to England to retain the Wisden Trophy but we are very conscious of happenings around the world and the fight for justice and equality. We believe we have a duty to show solidarity and also to help raise awareness," said Holder.

According to Holder, the decision to wear the Black Lives logo was not taken lightly and that the West Indies understand very well, the position they hold in regard to the fight for equality.

As a group of young men, we know of the rich and diverse history of West Indies cricket and we know we are guardians of the great game for generations to come.

“We did not take our decision lightly. We know what it is for people to make judgments because of the colour of our skin, so we know what it feels like, this goes beyond the boundary.

There must be equality and there must be unity. Until we get that as people, we cannot stop. We have to find some way to have equal rights and people must not be viewed differently because of the colour of their skin or ethnic background.”

According to Deeney, he and his partner are delighted to be part of the statement the West Indies chose to make in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign.

“Alisha and I are immensely proud to be asked and take part in a monumental moment in world sport, this amazing decision by the West Indies cricket team to show their support for Black Lives Matter. When I got the call, I didn’t hesitate to respond, because I know as sportspersons in the spotlight, how important our efforts are to bring about change and the role we play in moving towards change in our society," said Deeney.

Deeney said growing up, the West Indies were part of what shaped his childhood.

“Watching cricket with my grandad, and seeing Brian Lara transcend from being a cricketer to a worldwide superstar, shaped my childhood, so it’s great to be able to help West Indies Cricket show their support in such a meaningful way.”

West Indies will play England in three Test matches behind closed doors – the first at the at Ageas Bowl in Southampton and the other two at Emirates Old Trafford in Manchester, where they are presently based.

Due to COVID19 they have been training and live in a “bio-secure” environment as part of the comprehensive medical and operations plans to ensure player and staff safety.

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