England v West Indies: Holder v Stokes and a breakout star – BBC Sport

West Indies all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite will be part of the BBC TV and Test Match Special commentary teams for the Test series in England.

It has been a long wait for cricket because of the coronavirus crisis and I cannot wait to see it back.

The three-Test series between England and West Indies which begins on Wednesday is set up to be an exciting restart.

West Indies may not have won a series in England since 1988, but they are being underestimated on this tour. They are the holders of the Wisden Trophy after all.

I have picked out the players who will be central to the tourists’ chances of pulling off another series victory.

Jason Holder – a man with a point to prove

Holder scored 229 runs and took seven wickets in two Tests against England in 2019 but has never scored a Test fifty in England

First on the list is the West Indies captain.

Holder is part of a very successful bowling attack and also plays an important role in the middle order. We saw that when he scored a double hundred against England last year.

He may not have reached double figures in three innings in the warm-up games, but that is not cause for concern. You do not want to peak in a practice match.

When discussing great all-rounders in the world at the moment, you talk about Ben Stokes or people mention Mitchell Marsh. No-one mentions Holder, who is top of the International Cricket Council rankings.

Holder Stokes
40 Tests 63
1,898 Runs 4,056
32.72 Batting average 36.54
3 Centuries 9
106 Wickets 147
26.37 Bowling average 32.68
1 ICC all-rounder ranking 2

His consistency and calmness as a bowler and a batsman sets him apart.

That calmness also helps him as a captain – he is very level-headed, even in hectic situations – although off the pitch he is the joker of the group.

He is not one for big speeches but on the field he can be stubborn. That is because he knows what he wants and that is to get the best out of you as a player.

The first Test is set up perfectly as a crucial battle between between the two all-rounders and captains, Holder and Stokes.

The lack of acknowledgement for Holder as the number one all-rounder in the world will drive him to prove it in this series.

Shamarh Brooks – the breakout star of the series

West Indies have not had a consistent opening partnership for several years, but Brooks is the perfect batsman to come in at number three.

If they have a bad start Brooks is very dependable – he can soak up the pressure and transfer that pressure once the ball gets older and the spinners come on.

He is the nicest bloke you will meet and as a player is very elegant – as elegant as Shai Hope but with not quite as much flair.

Brooks is very driven to get some big scores on this tour and I expect him to be the breakout star.

India legend Rahul Dravid spoke to me about Brooks two years ago after he scored 122 not out and 91 for West Indies A against India A in England.

Dravid made a note of him and said he was destined for big things. Dravid is my idol and for him to endorse Brooks just cemented what I have known about him growing up.

I expect people to be asking “who is this guy?” and doing a bit more research into his background.

Roston Chase – top class with bat and ball

As an established batsman who has proven he can hold his own as a frontline spinner, Chase provides West Indies with much flexibility, allowing them to play an extra seamer or spinner.

Also, if Shai Hope does not perform at number four, Chase can slot in there or bat at five or six.

He loves batting. He may not be the easiest on the eye but he is mentally strong, very disciplined, and can counter-attack or play the long game.

Chase’s match-winning 8-60 against England last year showed what he can do with the ball.

A tall guy, his biggest asset is bounce. He is not a massive spinner of the ball but if he can draw a batsman forward he brings short-leg into play.

He also has a very good arm ball which he uses a lot to left-handers. England batsmen, watch out.

Raymon Reifer or Rahkeem Cornwall – the bonus player

Cornwall has 13 wickets in two Tests at an average of 22.61

The flexibility Chase gives West Indies will allow them, depending on conditions, to play another spinner in Rahkeem Cornwall or left-arm seamer Raymon Reifer.

Reifer gives West Indies something similar to Sam Curran with England – he swings the ball and and can be dangerous with the bat.

Cornwall is a very effective off-spinner. He may have played only two Tests but he already has a 10-wicket match haul.

He gets lots of revolutions on the ball, so much so that when you face him you can hear it whirring through the air.

He is also a gentle giant. He is not outspoken and will not tell you how good he is, but there is a inner confidence and he believes he can do anything.

Raymon Reifer Rahkeem Cornwall
29 Age 27
1 Tests 2
25.99 First-class batting average 23.75
25.29 First-class bowling average 23.57
Reifer took five wickets in West Indies’ first intra-squad warm-up game Did you know? In 2016, Virat Kohli asked Cornwall, then aged 23, for a net after the spinner dismissed him in a tour game

There will only be room in the team for Cornwall or Reifer, but whoever is picked will be instrumental.

They will have an important role when the ball gets old, being stingy and picking up the odd wicket.

But their bowling will be of a less importance than their batting. They will hope to come in at seven or eight, knock the bowlers off their stride and counter-attack, or support the middle order before helping the tail to wag.

West Indies are not a team that often score 500, so it is important their middle order of Shane Dowrich, Holder and Cornwall or Reifer bat well and push the first-innings totals towards 300.

Will West Indies win?

West Indies outbowled England the last time they met – a 2-1 series win in the Caribbean – and it is important they do so again.

If they can do that, then 350 in the first innings becomes acceptable from the batting line-up.

There are fine players on both sides and England are a tough team to beat at home. I predict a 1-1 draw – and West Indies should be proud of that.

Carlos Brathwaite was speaking to BBC Sport’s Matthew Henry.

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