BIRMINGHAM: West Indies captain Jason Holder believes his pacemen can help the “huge underdogs” make life uncomfortable for England during their upcoming Test series.
The first of a three-match campaign starts at Edgbaston on Thursday with the inaugural day/night Test in England.
Leading British bookmaker William Hill have Joe Root´s men as 1/5-on favourites to triumph in Birmingham, with the West Indies 12/1 against.
The reason for the huge disparity in the odds is not hard to find — since 1997, excluding matches against the often struggling Bangladesh and Zimbabwe, the West Indies have won just three out of 86 away Tests, losing 66 and drawing 17.
Their last Test win on English soil was at Edgbaston back in 2000 and it would constitute a major upset if they defeated an England side who come into this match on the back of a 3-1 series win at home to South Africa.
But with the first Test a pink ball affair, all-rounder Holder believes an emerging pace attack can trouble an England top order where only Alastair Cook and Root are currently certain of their places.
“I think our bowling has really carried us throughout the last few Test matches,” said Holder.
“Shannon Gabriel has had a pretty decent year; I haven´t been doing too badly, and we´ve got young Alzarri Joseph and Miguel Cummins.
“Kemar Roach is actually showing some very, very good form — so I´m really confident in our bowling.”
Gabriel took 15 wickets at an average of 18.8 during a recent home Test series against Pakistan, with the 20-year-old Joseph´s 10 wickets costing 28.4 apiece.
But West Indies still suffered a 2-1 reverse in a three-match contest — their sixth straight Test series loss.
England will be fielding a debutant opener in Mark Stoneman, while Tom Westley and Dawid Malan have yet to cement their places at numbers three and five respectively.
“I think for us, it´s mainly just to make it as uncomfortable as possible for their senior players … and put some pressure on the junior guys who are coming in to make their mark,” said Holder.
But while the West Indies´ original ´fearsome foursome´ pace attack of the 1980s was backed up by batsmen of the calibre of Gordon Greenidge, Desmond Haynes, Vivian Richards and Clive Lloyd, the present top order are still making their way in international cricket.
“It´s just for our batsmen to make some runs,” said Holder.
“We´ve struggled in the past, primarily with our batting, but so far on this tour we´ve been doing really well,” added the captain, who saw four West Indies batsmen score hundreds in their floodlit warm-up match against Derbyshire.
“So I expect good things from the batters (as well).”
The last time the West Indies faced England in a Test series they held them to a 1-1 draw in the Caribbean in 2015, with Holder then as now the captain.
Prior to that contest, England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves had labelled the home side “mediocre”.
But two years on, there has been a lack of inflammatory remarks from the England camp.
“I don´t think there´s anything to spark that,” said Holder, whose tourists remain without several star names — the legacy of a bitter dispute with Caribbean cricket chiefs.
“But we expect a good contest … the English come pretty hard, and we expect to go back just as hard at them,” insisted the skipper, with the West Indies, unlike England, having already played a day/night Test — a narrow defeat by Pakistan in Dubai in October.
“We´re obviously huge underdogs. We´ve got guys who are showing signs they can compete at Test level.”