A first for Oval today
More cricket history will be scripted at Kensington Oval today with the Caribbean’s first-ever pink ball day-night Test match starting at 3 p.m. at the famous venue.
West Indies enter the third and final Test against Sri Lanka with a 1-0 lead after winning the first Test in Trinidad and Tobago and drawing the second in St Lucia.
The sight of a green and grassy pitch for the historic match, which is also coinciding with the West Indies’ 90th anniversary of Test cricket, has brought smiles to the face of Windies captain Jason Holder and fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, who is coming off a 13-wicket record match haul.
“It is an interesting deck [pitch]. The last two times we played here, I’ve never seen so much grass on it. This is probably the best I’ve seen the outfield in a long time so I am really looking forward to playing the game here.
“Hopefully, the pitch will hold together a lot longer than the last two Test matches that we played here and I think the bounce and pace should be consistent throughout the entire game,” Holder told Saturday Sport yesterday after a net session at the venue.
The Windies, who won their last two Tests at The Oval, will continue their four-pronged pace policy.
Holder and Gabriel, who now have exactly 100 scalps at 30.66 apiece, will be joined by the experienced Kemar Roach and either Miguel Cummins or promising Guyanese seamer Keemo Paul.
The uncapped Paul, 20, was flown in from “A” team duties in England but Holder said the move was primarily as cover for the pacers.
“You never know what can happen. If given the opportunity, I think he should come in and do a really good job on the surface that we’ve got here but he is more cover for the four fast bowlers we had throughout the series,” Holder noted.
Leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo, who captured eight for 49 in the Windies’ last day-night Test, will complement the pacers.
Even though the Windies lost both of their two day-night Tests to Pakistan in Dubai and England at Edgbaston, Holder reasoned they would’ve benefited from the experiences.
“We have a fairly good knowledge of how to operate under lights. We had a really good time in those encounters. There are cases where we have had an eight-wicket haul and we’ve got batsmen getting centuries in day-night Tests as well,” Holder said.
“We have also had the luxury of playing quite a number of first-class games under the lights as well so the guys are more than accustomed to playing on the lights,” he added, even though he acknowledged “the transition between day and night is quite difficult” with two sessions under lights in the Test.
Wicket-keeper Shane Dowrich has been the team’s lone century-maker in the series and Holder is hoping middle-order batsmen like Shai Hope and Roston Chase, along with the top-order, can also reach triple figures.
“Both of them have gotten starts in the series. It is not to say they are out of form. It is just about converting a few of those starts. Kieron Powell has also been getting some really good starts and putting us in some good positions. We saw Kraigg [Brathwaite] come into his own in the last Test match,” he said.
“There have been positive times for us as a group to see that most of our top order hasn’t really clicked, but we are still getting 300 and 400 scores and we are winning Test matches,” Holder said.
Sri Lanka will be without suspended captain Dinesh Chandimal, whose appeal against his one-match ban for alleged ball tampering was thrown out yesterday by the ICC-appointed judicial commissioner Michael Beloff after a four-hour hearing.
But Holder said he won’t be under-estimating their opponents, who will be playing their first Test at Kensington.
“I expect the Sri Lankans to come hard at us. They pushed us in the last Test. I expect a really good contest.” (EZS)