West Indies v India
Friday 30 August 15.30
TV: Live on Sky Sports
Flash in the pan
West Indies were in the hunt against India on day one of the First Test. As is becoming the norm at North Sound, Antigua, their pacers, particularly Kemar Roach, ruffled feathers. At 25 for three and then 93 for four with Virat Kohli walking back, it was a contest.
But not for much longer. West Indies' problem, whether it be Tests or ODI, is sustaining pressure. Despite that strong start they were absolutely hammered – by 318 runs.
The biggest issue was the batting. Every player in the top eight, apart from Shamrah Brooks, was ‘in' but they posted only 222. That is frustrating because a 5-6-7-8 axis of Chase-Hope-Hetmyer-Holder should be strong.
They will lengthen their batting for this one, likely replacing Miguel Cummins with all-rounder Keemo Paul. Rakeem Cornwall, the off-spinner, is also in the squad but he will only play if the wicket is suggesting significant turn. Shai Hope continues behind the stumps with Shane Dowrich struggling with injury.
Flash in the pan
India came under fire before a ball was bowled when they decided to leave out Ravi Ashwin. But it is hard to argue with the decision after such a thumping win.
Ashwin is expected to miss out again with India preferring to bat deep. Ravi Jadeja was the only spinner in Antigua with all-rounder Hanuma Vihari an emergency fifth bowler. One suspects such a balance could leave them unsettled against more efficient units.
Mind you, if Jasprit Bumrah repeats figures of five for seven it won't matter. Pace upset the hosts with Bumrah, Ishant Sharma and Mohammad Shami working well together.
Ajinkya Rahane's 81 and 102 won him the man of the match. His form is crucial to India and takes the pressure off Kohli and Chet Pujara.
Frustrating memory for India
There have been seven Tests at Sabina Park since 2011. The first-innings scores (most recent first, 1-2 denote match won by side batting first or second) read: 354-1/286-2/196-d/399-1/508-1/260-1/246-2. The one draw was between Windies and India in 2016. Rain ruined India's chances of the win after they had run through the hosts in the first dig.
They should have no such worries this time. The forecast is good for Kingston with only the odd shower around on Monday.
Can Windies get a foothold?
Unsurprisingly there is little faith in West Indies after their first Test performance. They are as big as [7.60] with India [1.36] and the draw [7.80].
Our only option seems to be a trade. It's a bet on whether West Indies can put a strong bowling effort together in back-to-back sessions so we can take a couple of clicks for a position. But it requires them bowling first and probably Roach doing more damage to the top order.
If West Indies bat first the game could be up quickly. There may be more opportunities to trade the draw if a couple of them are able to drop anchor. We suspect, however, it is likely to be 30- or 40-odd sort of show rather than a monster partnership up front.
Not so long ago Kraigg Brathwaite was West Indies' Mr Reliable. Not so much these days. He's on a difficult run with no half-centuries in the last 12 months and an average of 13.40. Let's hope that run continues for a bit longer by shorting Sportsbook's 5/6 that he scores more than 71.5 performance points (1pt per run, 10 per catch, 20 per wkt).
On career form, Brathwaite has an average per game make-up of 71.2. But the funk has taken hold with that figure dropping to 35 in the last 12 months and 57.2 in the last two years.
Sabina Park is not a terrible ground for him (he has one century in four Tests) but he's been hardly prolific. A batting average of just 20 suggests there is little risk involved bar a Phoenix from the flames comeback. Could happen. And would be irritating if it did but it's hard to find a reason not to go low.
Kohli, by the way, gets 41.52 first-innings runs quote from Sportsbook. You can go over or under at 5/6. He has busted the mark six times out of the last nine in the last 12 months.