West Indies keen to fire on all cylinders against revamped England

Windies fast bowler Kemar Roach feels the key lies in dismissing Joe Root and Ben Stokes early in the three-match Test series starting on Tuesday.

FILE PHOTO: Windies fast bowler Kemar Roach feels the key lies in dismissing Joe Root and Ben Stokes early in the three-match Test series starting on Tuesday.   -  AP

West Indies veteran seamer Kemar Roach was as surprised as everyone else when England left out James Anderson and Stuart Broad for their three-match Test series starting on Tuesday.

However, to Roach, the key to winning the series will be dismissing England captain Joe Root and all-rounder Ben Stokes.

"If we can put immense pressure on those both, I think we're in for quite a good chance,” Roach said.

England failed to reach 300 in 10 innings in the Ashes calamity in Australia and reacted by dropping opening batsmen Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed and No. 3 Dawid Malan for this tour.

Set to open, instead, are Zak Crawley and the uncapped Alex Lees. Root has asked to bat at No. 3 despite averaging 38.66 at three compared to 51.27 at his usual position of four. But he's coming off a milestone year in which he scored the third most runs in a calendar year in Test history.

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“I'm very comfortable in the way I've been playing over the last year and it's the right fit for this team,” Root said. "This is the first time batting at three has really sat comfortably with me and it's the first time I've been really excited and not slightly apprehensive about it.”

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Stokes wants to make amends after feeling he “let the team down” in the Ashes, where he averaged 23.60 with the bat and took four wickets.

Anderson, aged 39, and Broad, 35 — England's all-time leading wicket-takers with a combined 1,177 dismissals — were angry at being left out of this tour.

Fallout from the 4-0 Ashes loss saw coaches Chris Silverwood and assistant Graham Thorpe, and director of cricket Ashley Giles resign. Andrew Strauss replaced Giles in the interim, chose interim coach Paul Collingwood, and a new Test squad was picked to look at new bowling options and add responsibility to others.

Strauss implored the bowlers to "show more leadership,” a task even more desperate after an injury in the warm-up match to Ollie Robinson, their leading bowler in the Ashes who suffered a back spasm.

Robinson is out of the first Test at Sir Vivian Richards Stadium. If he's out of the tour, Anderson or Broad will not be summoned.

“It's a slight advantage for us,” Roach said. "With those experienced players missing, it leaves a little bit of a hole for England to fill.”

England's likely seam attack will be Mark Wood, Chris Woakes and Craig Overton. Paceman Saqib Mahmood could debut as the fourth bowler.

Roach will spearhead the West Indies pace attack including Alzarri Joseph, Jason Holder, Jayden Seales and the uncapped Anderson Phillip.

After the West Indies lost to Sri Lanka 2-0 in December, Shai Hope and all-rounders Roston Chase and Rahkeem Cornwall were dropped and left-hander John Campbell recalled. He has not played a Test since April 2021.

The West Indies has lost a Test series at home to England only once in 50 years — in 2004 — and expectations are they will uphold that record this month.

“Once we get our plans right,” Roach said, "we should be good going into the series, getting a good start and then taking it further on.”

The second Test is at Kensington Oval in Barbados next week, and the series finishes in Grenada.

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