England and West Indies have a short turnaround time before the second Test in Manchester starts on Thursday, 16 July.
The return of International cricket proved to be an enthralling affair as West Indies gained a 1-0 lead over England in Southampton in the three-match series. With the hosts under pressure to salvage the series, the second Test at Old Trafford will make way for interesting player battles. Here we identify three key players from either side who could be under the scanner in the second Test.
Despite the loss at Ageas Bowl, Ben Stokes was easily England's best batsman. He made convincing 40s in both innings but could not carry on to make a big mark in the game, being dismissed by his opposite number, Jason Holder, twice. In the series opener, Stokes also became the sixth player to reach the Test double of 4,000 runs and 150 wickets in Tests. With captaincy off his shoulders, the all-rounder could become an even more dangerous proposition. His bowling, which was sharp on day five, could be more than handy yet again when the sides meet in Manchester.
England haven't had a stable Test opener to partner Alastair Cook since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in 2012. With Cook retiring in 2018, the onus fell on Rory Burns to step into the role. As he crossed the milestone of 1,000 Test runs in Southampton. Burns was also increasing the trust England's middle-order had in their openers. In Manchester, he could once again be key in halting the intimidating West Indies pace attack with the new ball.
Rory Burns has now scored 1000 runs in Test cricket 👏— ICC (@ICC) July 9, 2020
He becomes the 30th England player to pass the tally in the opening spots. pic.twitter.com/MX0Vg4m5ed
West Indies opening batsman had come into the series with underwhelming numbers in the last two years. In 29 innings since 2018, he had made 576 runs at an average of 21.33. However, he stepped up in the Southampton Test against a quality England attack and defied them for 125 balls, making a crucial half-century in the process. If he carries on his good form from the intra-squad warm-up game and the first Test, West Indies will have one less headache.
Jason Holder's unreal numbers in Test cricket in the last two years seemed to have flown under the radar despite his No.1 position in the MRF Tyres ICC Men's Test All-rounder Rankings. In Southampton, his bowling came to the fore as he picked up a big six-wicket haul on day two to decimate the hosts. The spell that restricted England to 204 proved crucial as West Indies built a solid first-innings lead. Holder has moved up the bowling rankings too and will once again be a key player for the visitors in the second Test. His captaincy, which was yet again impressive at Ageas Bowl, will be keenly followed too.
🚨 RANKINGS UPDATE 🚨— ICC (@ICC) July 14, 2020
After his phenomenal performance in the first #ENGvWI game, Jason Holder overtakes Neil Wagner in the @MRFWorldwide ICC Test Rankings for bowling. He's now No.2 👏
Latest rankings: https://t.co/AIR0KN4yY5 pic.twitter.com/itkwxZFxgm
The return of the English skipper will be of much relief to the batting line-up. While Zak Crawley performed well in his absence, Joe Denly was less than convincing and Root could be replacing one of the two for the Manchester Test. Root brings consistency to the middle-order as his numbers suggest. Since 2018, he is the top run-scorer in Tests with 2,039 runs including four hundreds and 13 half-centuries.
Despite Shannon Gabriel and Jason Holder doing particularly well in Southampton, it was Kemar Roach who bowled the most number of overs among the West Indies pace bowlers. This suggests the kind of trust Holder has in his strike bowler. He went wicketless in the first Test but is just seven wickets shy of becoming the seventh West Indies pacer to 200 Test wickets.
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