England vs West Indies: The five-piece Caribbean pace band

Windies’ five-pronged pace attack — Joseph, Chemar, Kemar, Jason and Shannon — is an instant flashback to the yesteryears.

Shannon Gabriel bowls during a nets session at Ageas Bowl on Tuesday.   -  Getty Images

West Indies is known for its fast bowlers. They are natural athletes. If you are from the Caribbean islands, you ought to make the batsmen smell the ball. You got to beat them with pace, bounce and maybe by just staring at them.

The three Test series between England and West Indies starting at the Ageas Bowl on Wednesday will have plenty to offer. The spotlight will be on the five-pronged pace attack of the tourists — a flashback to the glorious days of West Indies cricket and the start of a new age pace revolution. The pace department is wild and hungry with Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Chemar Holder, Shannon Gabriel and captain Jason Holder, who is tad slower but incisive enough to trouble the batters in the middle overs.

Joseph is the living embodiment of raw pace and anger. The 23-year-old carries the Antigua legacy. His grandmother, Eileen, used to be a scorer at the Antigua Recreation Ground. Sir Viv Richards, Andy Roberts and Curtly Ambrose were part of his bed-time stories.

U-19 World Cup winner

His mother died on the third day of the Antigua Test against England last year but he did not leave the field. Instead, he bowled his side to victory, along with the pace pack. Not to forget, he is a U-19 World Cup winner and the bowler who picked up six wickets (6 for 12) on IPL debut. He rarely smiles. It reminds one of Dale Steyn whose bowling was directly proportional to anger.

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Trinidadian Gabriel, who is often compared with Ian Bishop and Patrick Patterson, is returning from an injury. He is 32, relatively experienced and complements Roach quite well.

Gabriel had a hand in England’s demolition in the West Indies in 2019. He can crank up 142-145 kmph with the new ball to unsettle the openers. “With the pace he has, he reminds me of the guys back in those days who used to bowl real fast,” Courtney Walsh was quoted as saying by ESPNcricinfo.

No change in plans

Ask him about preparations for the series, he is on point. “I don’t think the plans should change too much from what we did in the Caribbean. We used pace and that worked. What we did was successful. I don’t think we should fix anything that is not broken,” Gabriel told reporters via a video conference.


Chemar was a sprinter. He would participate in 1,500m races which speaks volumes of his capability as a fast bowler. Being a newcomer in international cricket is an advantage. England hasn’t seen much of him. The Barbadian is often called Amby for comparisons with Ambrose. He returned with 36 wickets at a recent domestic competition at 18.91.

Roach is the senior-most bowler in the setup. He lost his pace after a car crash in 2014 but the ball still talks. Shine or no shine, trust the right-arm pacer to keep the batsmen on their toes. Roach 2.0 is mature, clever, smart and somebody who knows how to manage the workload. His style is similar to that of Malcolm Marshall.

Captain Holder will be expected to anchor the department for his skill-sets are suited to the conditions in England. The nagging pace and movement has fetched him 100+ wickets in 40 Tests.

  • England (First Test): Ben Stokes (c), James Anderson, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Joe Denly, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler, Dom Sibley, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
  • West Indies Test squad: Jason Holder (c), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Chemar Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Raymon Reifer and Kemar Roach
  • Toss: 3 pm (July 8, 2020) Ageas Bowl, Southampton
  • Live on: Sony Six, Sony Six HD, Sony Ten 1 & Sony Ten 1 HD.

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