Law urges West Indies to ‘rewrite history’ against England
The first of a three-match campaign gets underway at Edgbaston on Thursday with the inaugural day/night Test ever staged in England.
Much of the pre-match build-up has focused on how Joe Root’s men will cope with their first tasted of pink ball international cricket.
Also, given this is England’s last Test series before they tour Australia, there has been much speculation as to what the composition of this side could mean in terms of their Ashes defence ‘Down Under’.
That England, fresh from a 3-1 home success against South Africa, will win their series against the West Indies is almost taken as read, something unthinkable when the men from the Caribbean were dominating Test cricket in the 1970s and 1980s.
Yet a sign of how far the West Indies have slipped from those heights is that they have gone 17 matches without a Test win in England, losing 14 and drawing the other three.
Although an end now appears in sight to a bitter dispute between players and officials, the West Indies have still arrived in England without several star names for a series that is, to the dismay of traditionalists, taking place at the same time as the lucrative Caribbean Premier League Twenty20 competition.
Yet the West Indies did draw their last Test series against England in the Caribbean two years ago — despite being labelled a “mediocre” side by England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves.
Jason Holder, the captain for that series, is still the West Indies skipper and Law is confident the all-rounder remains the right man for the job.
“He takes it with a pinch of salt, the things said about him and this team and uses it to drive him and them forward,” Law told reporters at Edgbaston on Tuesday.
“It is a lot of responsibility, and he does it with fantastic integrity,” added former batsman Law, who made just one Test appearance for Australia such was their top-order strength in the 1990s.
Law knows English cricket well from his successful playing stints with county sides Essex and Lancashire.
England may have overwhelmed South Africa but doubts about their top-order batting remain.
The Edgbaston Test will see Mark Stoneman become Alastair Cook’s 12th England opening partner in the five years since Andrew Strauss retired.
Meanwhile Tom Westley and Dawid Malan have yet to nail down their places at numbers three and five respectively.
– ‘Little crack’ –
West Indies’ pace attack, which includes Shannon Gabriel and 20-year-old Alzarri Joseph, could pose problems for an England top order often overly-reliant on Cook and Root.
“You always look at any little crack you can find,” said Law.
“With a couple of new guys to the fore in Test cricket, that’s an opportunity for our bowlers,” he added.
“There’s been a lot said about this (West Indies) cricket team, and that is motivation for them,” Law explained.
“We’re looking forward — let’s rewrite that history.”
But the West Indies, for all that Shai Hope and Roston Chase scored centuries in a warm-up match against Derbyshire last week, have their own top-order concerns.
For many of their young batsmen, this will be the first time they have played Test cricket in English conditions.
And if that were not enough of a problem, the West Indies will now be facing one of England’s greatest new-ball duos in James Anderson and Stuart Broad.
But Broad, whose father Chris was a member of the England side ‘blackwashed’ by a brilliant West Indies team in 1984, was taking nothing for granted.
“We’ve got a huge amount of respect for the way the West Indies play,” said Broad, who needs just five more wickets to overtake Ian Botham and go second behind Anderson in England’s all-time list of leading Test wicket-takers.
“The West Indies as they are on this England tour are going to be hugely keen to prove themselves,” he added.