Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby
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Phil Simmons, West Indies' head coach, says that he wasn't nervous as his side successfully batted out 70.1 overs to force a draw on the final day's play in Antigua, but joked that the teams had been "playing in Trent Bridge for the last few days" after the home supporters had been outnumbered by England's travelling support.
Speaking after West Indies had negotiated a final-day wobble to close on 147 for 4, Simmons praised man of the match Nkrumah Bonner, who scored a fantastic 123 in the first innings and was instrumental in securing the draw with an unbeaten on 38 from 138 balls second-time around.
"He started doing it for us against Bangladesh," Simmons said, recalling Bonner's scores of 86 and 90 in his debut series in February 2021. "When he came and played Sri Lanka he did the same thing [with a maiden Test century]. So we've seen that with him and it's getting more and more consistent, so that's brilliant for us.
"I'm hoping for a little more in the wicket [in Barbados] as it'll make for a better Test match," Simmons added. "I used to be a batter but you can't let batters have it easy all the time and it's hard for bowlers on wickets like these. You need an even surface and let's compete."
Despite the apparent serenity of the final scoreline, West Indies endured a dicey passage of play either side of the tea-break, when four wickets fell for eight runs in the space of 9.3 overs to leave them awkwardly placed on 67 for 4. Bonner, however, found steadfast support in Jason Holder (37 not out), whose unbroken 80-run stand for the fifth wicket guided the team to safety.
"I was more nervous when the review went up for Jason's caught at slip [on 32] so no, I was not really nervous," Simmons said. "The wicket has been flat so once you get your head down it's difficult to get wickets on that, so I wasn't that nervous."
After England had added 132 more runs in 25 overs in the morning session, Root declared shortly before lunch to set West Indies a teasing target of 286 to win from 71 overs. Simmons joked that he would have preferred 250 to win in 80 overs, but said he was pleased that England made a proactive decision that kept the game alive.
"It's good, we ended up being put under pressure because they've given themselves a chance with 70 overs to bowl against us and that's how you want to finish a Test match looking to win.
"They've come here to play a hard-fought series and they've shown that they're not going to lie down so it's good to see the fight from them and the other two matches are going to be just as hard."
This Test match in Antigua has been played out in front of thousands of fans, of whom the vast majority have been English. The lack of home support in West Indian cricket has been an issue for a number of years with the Caribbean Cricket Podcast confronting the issue in a recent episode by asking what can be done to effect change and encourage more local fans to attend.
There are numerous reasons for the lack of local support, including a low vaccination rate within the population of Antigua, the location of the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, which is a fair distance outside of the capital St John's, and also the fact that the match started on a Tuesday, meaning locals were working for all but the fifth and final day. Sure enough, Saturday's play did lead to a slight, but noticeable increase in the number of local fans.
"We've been playing in Trent Bridge for the last few days and we were playing in Lord's for the T20s," Simmons joked. "We have no support … but it's great because we went through a period where we played with no fans in the stands, and I had to jump over and fetch the balls. So it's great to see the fans and it's great to see the music up on the hill. It's great that people are coming back to cricket and things are getting back to normal."
Asked whether he'd like to see more support from home fans across the series Simmons responded that "we'll see what happens. In Barbados? I'm not too sure."