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Lack of opening partnership a worry for Simmons

Lack of opening partnership a worry for Simmons
Windies Test captain Kraigg Brathwaite (Picture courtesy CWI Media)

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GROS ISLET, St Lucia – Head coach Phil Simmons has conceded that the lack of substantive opening partnerships is becoming a worry, following West Indies’ chastening innings and 63-run defeat to South Africa here last weekend.

The home side produced two feeble batting performances – bowled out for 97 and 162 – with Roston Chase getting their only half-century of the game.

Captain Kraigg Brathwaite and the recalled Shai Hope out on 24 in the first innings while Brathwaite and Kieran Powell – a concussion substitute for Nkrumah Bonner – managed only 12 in the second innings.

Over their last 18 Test innings, West Indies scraped only two half-century stands, with the highest being 66 in the second Test against Bangladesh last February.

“That is one of the things we’ve been trying to work on very desperately because if you watch back a lot of times we win Test matches against the top teams, we have good opening stands,” Simmons pointed out.

“Against England the last time [in 2019], we had good opening stands between John Campbell and Kraigg. That has not been happening and we’re working very hard on that.

“It’s disappointing because when you look at the last seven Test hundreds scored by an opener, I think they’re all scored by Kraigg.”

Campbell was axed for the ongoing series due to a run of low form while Brathwaite recaptured his with a hundred and half-century in the previous Test against Sri Lanka in Antigua.

However, Shai Hope, recalled as an opener, failed in the first innings against the Proteas with 15 while Powell got 14 in the second as Hope dropped down to number three.

With Hope failing to produce the runs expected at the top of the order, questions are already being asked about his suitability as an opener in Test cricket but Simmons defended the player.

“I think he has the ability to bat anywhere in the top six that he wants to bat,” Simmons contended.

“And it’s a case of this is the position he was asked [to bat] because of where he scored his runs leading into the [Test] but … international cricket works like that sometimes.

“Powell came in and we decided that Powell would open and he (Hope) would bat at three.”

West Indies take on South Africa in the second Test starting here Friday, hoping for a win to level the series and keep their unbeaten series record this year intact.

And despite the wide margin of defeat with the first Test lasting only 2-1/2 days, Simmons said he did not believe there was a massive deficit in quality between West Indies and South Africa.

“I don’t think there’s that big a gulf. I think we have to make sure that when we play these teams that are higher up that we play just as intense or more intense than when we play the teams at our level,” he stressed.

“I think we just have to be more clinical in the way we do things, whether it is teams above at number one or two, or teams at ten.”

West Indies were ranked sixth at the start of the series, one notch ahead of South Africa. (CMC)