Analysis

Jason Holder rues missed chances as West Indies target new ball

England battle back from four early wickets thanks to Bairstow century

Andrew Miller
Andrew Miller
09-Mar-2022
Jason Holder claimed the wicket of Dan Lawrence as West Indies started strongly  •  Getty Images

Jason Holder claimed the wicket of Dan Lawrence as West Indies started strongly  •  Getty Images

Jason Holder admits that West Indies have been left ruing a number of important missed chances on a topsy-turvy opening day of the first Test in Antigua, but believes that the new ball - six overs old at the start of the second day's play - will be key to limiting England to a sub-par total.
Holder, who finished with economical figures of 2 for 15 in 16 overs, was one of those who allowed a chance to go begging, as Ben Stokes toe-ended a cut through the cordon on 22, while Jermaine Blackwood also missed two clear opportunities at third slip - including one to reprieve Joe Root, the ball before Kemar Roach bowled the England captain for 9.
The upshot for England was that they recovered from a ropey 48 for 4 in the first hour to close on 268 for 6, thanks in the main to Jonny Bairstow, whose gutsy 109 not out was his second century in consecutive Tests. Ben Foakes made 42 on his return to the team, while Chris Woakes contributed an important 24 not out late in the day.
But Holder was encouraged that West Indies made their chances, even if they didn't take all of them.
"It's a bitter pill to swallow in a sense that if we'd held on to one or two of the chances, but a positive that we created them," he said. "And credit to the bowlers, each and every one of them gave a really good effort when called upon by the captain in these conditions. It's not easy, especially with the wind factor as well, I thought each and every bowler put their hand up.
"It's hard toil in Test cricket. I thought Jonny batted really well and brought them right back in the game. We had a really good start, four wickets in the first session, but it was slow going after that. I thought the wicket was quite easy-paced, quite slow and you know Jonny played a really good knock.
"All I can say is that I think most stuff happened with the new ball and, as the ball got softer, you know it became a lot harder to take wickets," he added. "But having said that, I think that you can give yourself a really good chance up front, even with the new ball, it's a pretty easy-paced wicket that you can adjust."
If there was a moment in the day when West Indies' plans went awry, it arguably came in the hour after lunch, when Alzarri Joseph and Jayden Seales were subjected to a calculated counterattack from Bairstow and Stokes, who had been allowed just nine runs in 8.2 overs in the overs leading up to the break.
"I can't take anything away from him. He let the ball come to him early on in his innings, and then he put us under pressure when we were either too wide or too straight and that's just the signs of a good player"
Jason Holder on Jonny Bairstow's innings
"If I'm being critical, I thought we leaked too many boundaries," Holder said. "If you look at the boundary count, it's pretty high, and that's something we need to look at in tomorrow's session. We need to make the second new ball count as well, if we can get Jonny early on and maybe put a little bit more pressure on Woakesy and [Craig] Overton to push the rate along, we'll be pretty much in the game then.
"It was an excellent innings," he added of Bairstow's hundred, which came from 190 balls, the slowest of his Test career. "I can't take anything away from him. He let the ball come to him early on in his innings, and then he put us under pressure when we were either too wide or too straight and that's just the signs of a good player."
Either way, England's morning collapse has ensured that the game remains firmly in the balance, and even though West Indies themselves have struggled to post consistent runs in recent Tests, Holder was confident the pitch would remain good for batting when their own turn comes in the middle.
"My first priority is just to finish this innings off," he said. "It's really important just to stay in the game and then capitalise on conditions when batting comes around. The conditions are in favour of batters, especially if you work hard up front. You give yourself a really good chance of getting a good score."
Bairstow also recognised how crucial it would be to build on the recovery that England have already made. "'ll be an interesting one in the morning," he said. "It's a big session, hopefully we can get through that morning and if so, we'd like to push on for 320, 330, 350. Anything from there is a bonus from the start we had. If you look too far ahead you can come up short, it only takes a few good balls. Let's stay in the present."

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket