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Kemar Roach targets England frailties after 'surprising' omission of Anderson and Broad

Fast bowler hopes Windies can defend proud home record against England for '100 years'

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
Kemar Roach has been a big part of West Indies' run of home success against England  •  AFP

Kemar Roach has been a big part of West Indies' run of home success against England  •  AFP

Kemar Roach, West Indies' veteran attack leader, believes that the "quite surprising" omissions of James Anderson and Stuart Broad from England's Test plans give his side a slight advantage going into Tuesday's first Test, but says that the wickets of Joe Root and Ben Stokes are his team's truest route to victory in the coming weeks.
Roach, 33, was instrumental in West Indies' triumph in their previous home campaign in 2019, when his five-wicket haul in the first Test in Barbados contributed to England's catastrophic 77 all out. And given that England have just emerged from a 4-0 Ashes loss in which they failed to pass 300 in ten attempts, he recognises the frailties are once again there to be exploited.
Asked if it was simply a case of dismissing Root to win the series, given that he made 1708 Test runs at 66.00 in 2021 when no other batter picked for this tour passed 500, Roach replied: "Joe Root and Ben Stokes. If we can put immense pressure on those both, I think we're in for quite a good chance."
Stokes, who struggled for form during the Ashes after missing most of the 2021 season with a finger injury, has conceded that he "just wasn't me" as he struggled to 236 runs at 23.60 in the five Tests. However, West Indies witnessed Stokes at his very best on their tour of England in 2020, particularly in the second Test at Old Trafford when he made 254 runs for once out.
As for Roach, he is now closing in on 250 Test wickets - a mark that only five all-time great West Indians have previously surpassed - and he admits that the challenge of extending his side's proud record of one home series loss to England since 1968 will spur him on in the course of these three Tests.
"We take the English coming to the Caribbean very seriously," he said. "Only losing once at home in 50 years is a long time. So the onus is on us as players to have that in the back of our minds, and play the best we can on the day to keep that record intact.
"I don't want to lose that record, so it would be great to win the series, and take that tradition and that record further and further forward. Hopefully we can hold it for 100 years. That'd be fantastic. But this is a stepping stone as we go ahead.
"I always put my best foot forward for the West Indies," Roach added. "For me, playing against England is definitely one of the hallmarks of your career, so it's all about expressing yourself, being positive and taking it to the English."
At the age of 33, and having been a part of the West Indies Test set-up for 13 years, Roach recognises that he is entering the latter years of his career. Having proved insightful analysis during his commentary stints in the T20I series in January, he is keen to further his opportunities in the media.
However, having signed a new deal last week to play Surrey for the start of the 2022 season, he's in no mood to think about winding up just yet, and said that he would not have taken kindly to the sort of phone-call that Anderson and Broad received from Andrew Strauss last month, informing them that they were being omitted to give younger players a chance.
"I definitely would not have taken it too well," Roach said. "There may have been some breaking news coming for you guys, for sure.
"It's quite surprising," he added. "I thought that both of them would still be involved, but the decisions have been made from that end, and I think it's a slight advantage for us."
England's seamers toiled for penetration on a flat deck at Coolidge this week, claiming a solitary first-innings wicket between them, and though they produced a sparkier display on the final day, a back spasm for Ollie Robinson, and concerns about Mark Wood's health, meant that there's some uncertainty in the ranks going into the first Test.
"Obviously, those experienced players missing leaves a little bit a hole for England," Roach said. "Robinson, Wood and [Chris] Woakes are still fantastic bowlers, we will still take them seriously, but once we get our plans right, we should be pretty good going into the series.
"They have been good battles over the years, even before myself, so it's all about continuing that tradition and obviously keep playing good cricket against the English cricketers. Just keep putting your name out there, to be that person to win a series, or be the defining player who takes West Indies over the line."
Following his stint at the Kia Oval last year, Roach may come up against some familiar faces in the coming weeks, most particularly Surrey's wicketkeeper Ben Foakes, who is in line for a recall. Ollie Pope is set to miss out in the first Test but may feature at a later date, and while there has been much criticism of county cricket since the Ashes loss, Roach believes the competition still offers plenty of vital experience.
"I love playing for Surrey, I enjoyed a really fantastic stint last year," Roach said, after making a lasting impression with 22 wickets at 20.54 in his five Championship appearances. "Hopefully I can use some of those great memories in this series.
"I rate county cricket very highly," he added. "It's quick changeovers in different conditions. Sometimes it's sunny, sometimes it's cold, so it can be very challenging on your body as a fast bowler.
"It's pretty surprising to hear the comments coming in about the standard of cricket there, but I still rate it as probably one of the better first-class seasons going on around the world. It's on the players to show the world their quality, but I have no issues with the county cricket season."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket