Holder expects lively pitch at Sabina Park
West Indes captain Jason Holder believes his side can pick up where they left off against Pakistan in the final Test of their previous three-Test series in the UAE, aiming to carry that momentum into the opening Test of the return three-Test series beginning at Sabina Park on Friday. But Holder says that in order for his side to achieve a positive result, the team has to follow through on the potential they showed at the end of their UAE tour rather than the inconsistent displays that have undermined progress in the past.
"For me just stressing consistency," Holder said at a press conference in Kingston on the eve of the first Test. "One thing we've spoken about in the dressing room is momentum and if we have the momentum, we need to hold it as long as possible and not shift it back to the Pakistanis. For us it's just to get runs on the board in the first innings and our bowlers will support us in the field."
Holder's men have found success hard to come by in the longest format - the 25-year-old was winless in his first 11 Tests in charge - but finally earned a gritty victory at Sharjah by five wickets last November and is hoping to bring that winning spirit into Kingston.
"We finished off the year last year quite well, we won that game in Sharjah," Holder said. "We batted well and we also got 20 wickets. In the past we've been able to get 20 wickets but we haven't been able to consistently put runs on the board and that's one area that we need to obviously pay attention to. The first innings total obviously is very very important for us to start the game well and obviously set up things well for the end of the game."
History is on West Indies side. They have never lost a Test series at home to Pakistan, hosting them seven times previously with four series wins. There have been three drawn series, including each of Pakistan's last two visits when the teams split twin two-Test series. On both occasions West Indies won the first match before Pakistan came back to draw the final match, including in 2005 at Sabina Park.
Corey Collymore took 11 wickets in that match for West Indies and a recent match in the regional four-day competition between Jamaica and Leewards Islands lasted just 151.4 overs on a dicey pitch where fast bowlers prospered. Though that pitch came under criticism from both sides for the way it was prepared, Holder says he had asked for a pitch for the upcoming Test that will aid quick bowling and is pleased at what he saw when the covers were off during training.
"It's similar to what we asked for," Holder said. "We asked for some pitches now with some grass and some life in them. Hopefully our faster bowlers can get the ball in the right area and extract whatever there is on the surface. For us, we just need to be consistent."
Holder did not seem concerned that such a pitch would backfire on what is a relatively inexperienced batting lineup projected to take the field on Friday. Of the team that won in Sharjah, three of the top six are not in the current squad: Darren Bravo, Leon Johnson and Marlon Samuels. Vice-captain Kraigg Brathwaite, who scored 142 not out in the first innings and then an unbeaten 60 in the winning chase, will face even more responsibility to shepherd newcomers Shimron Hetmyer and Vishaul Singh while Kieran Powell is in line for his first Test in nearly three years. Holder is backing them to perform regardless.
"I think this squad that we have is a very good squad," Holder said. "It's a young squad and guys have been doing well in first-class cricket. It's just about transitioning that into the international circuit now and being consistent here."