Batting will hold key to WI’s success in England, feels Atherton

Former captain Mike Atherton believes West Indies batters need to give their “decent” bowling unit enough runs to put pressure on England when the two sides meet in the three-Test series starting July 8.

England’s 30-member training group is preparing for the Test series against the West Indies at the Ageas Bowl’s biosecure bubble, which is set to host the opening match. The West Indies team is also in England.

The three-Test series will also mark the resumption of cricket after the coronavirus break.

“West Indies look like they have a decent bowling line up,” Atherton said on Sony Network for their show Pit Stop on their Facebook page.

“Kemar Roach is closing in on 200 Test wickets. Jason Holder, Shannon Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph and some youngsters — that’s a pretty decent line up. The question is whether West Indies will get the runs to give those bowlers the ammunition to have a go at England.

“(Kraigg) Brathwaite and (Shai) Hope did well last time they were here but their form since then has been up and down. If they do get runs, they will be a threat to England,” said Atherton who has played 115 Tests and 54 ODIs for England between 1989-2001.

The 52-year-old said it will be interesting to see how fast bowlers come out of the COVID-19 induced long-break as the craft is more physical.

“You would have thought coming out of a lengthy break that advantage will be slightly with the batsmen rather than the bowlers because it will be easier for the batsmen to get into form more quickly than the fast bowlers, it’s a very physical thing fast bowling. Let’s see.

On several Pakistan players testing positive ahead of their planned tour of England for three Tests and three T20Is, Atherton seemed unperturbed saying most of them were white-ball cricketers and they can come later.

“Most of those players are Pakistan’s white-ball players. Maybe one first choice Test cricketer, maybe a couple who were in reserve. So there is still time for the one day players who have tested positive and they will come a little bit later on flight.

“Majority of the Test players seem to be clear of COVID-19 so they will arrive in the next week or two and will be going to their biosecure area ahead of the Test series. So fingers crossed. Because there is no recreational cricket at the moment.

“Hopefully there will be better science on it. The ECB is still very confident that recreational cricket will return in the first or second week of July.”

The England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) has decided to cancel Dynamos Cricket and other national competitions amid the ongoing pandemic.

British Prime Minister Boris Johnson had recently upheld the ban on recreational cricket in the country. Johnson had said that the cricket ball is a “natural vector of disease” and hence recreational cricket cannot be allowed to resume.

Atherton also spoke about Steve Smith, saying the premier Australia batsman makes cricket watching fun with his unorthodox style of batting. He added that it’s not easy to find a way to get Smith out and it will be interesting to see how India devise a way for that when they tour Australia later in the year.

“I enjoy watching him because he is an unorthodox player. The game is a better game because of people who are very unusual in the way that they play. England did not find a way to get him out, I don’t have any easy answers too on how to get him out. It will be interesting to see how India goes about it.”