Test cricket returned in an emphatic way as West Indies beat England at the Ageas Bowl to spark off celebrations. With the hosts under pressure and seeking for a way to salvage the series, the second Test at Old Trafford will make way for interesting player battles. Here we identify five key players from either side who could be under the scanner in the second Test.
Joe Root’s return will definitely uplift the mood in the dressing room as the Three Lions seek to put things on level terms at the Manchester Test. The regular skipper was absent from the side during the Southampton Test due to the birth of his second child. While Zak Crawley performed well in his absence, Joe Denly was less than convincing and is expected to make way for the skipper. Since 2018, Root is the top run-scorer in Tests with 2,039 runs including four tons and 13 half-centuries and brings consistency to the middle-order
Despite Shannon Gabriel and Jason Holder doing particularly well in Southampton, it was Kemar Roach who bowled the most number of overs among the West Indies pace bowlers. This suggests the kind of trust Holder has in his strike bowler. He went wicketless in the first Test but is just seven wickets shy of becoming the seventh West Indies pacer to 200 Test wickets.
England hasn’t had a stable Test opener to partner Alastair Cook since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in 2012. With Cook retiring in 2018, the onus fell on Rory Burns to step into the role. As he crossed the milestone of 1,000 Test runs in Southampton. Burns was also increasing the trust England’s middle-order had in their openers. In Manchester, he could once again be key in halting the intimidating West Indies pace attack with the new ball.
Jason Holder’s unreal numbers in Test cricket in the last two years seemed to have flown under the radar despite his No.1 position in the ICC Men’s Test All-rounder Rankings. In Southampton, his bowling came to the fore as he picked up a big six-wicket haul on day two to decimate the hosts. The spell that restricted England to 204 proved crucial as West Indies built a solid first-innings lead. Holder has moved up the bowling rankings too and will once again be a key player for the visitors in the second Test.
Despite the loss at Ageas Bowl, Ben Stokes was easily England’s best batsman. He made convincing 40s in both innings but could not carry on to make a big mark in the game, being dismissed by his opposite number, Jason Holder, twice. In the series opener, Stokes also became the sixth player to reach the Test double of 4,000 runs and 150 wickets in Tests. With captaincy off his shoulders, the all-rounder could become an even more dangerous proposition.