Jason Holder, the West Indies captain, labeled their lower order “one of the most consistent in world cricket” after crushing Sri Lanka by 226 runs in Trinidad, which had been set in motion by excellent lower-order stands in the first innings.
Statistically this is untrue – West Indies’ lower order is no better than seventh-best on average since 2016, but they were exceptional in this match. The hosts had been 147 for 5 on the first day, before wicketkeeper-batsman Shane Dowrich – who eventually finished on 125 not out – put on 90, 102 and 75-run partnerships with Holder, Devendra Bishoo and Kemar Roach respectively. Though at one stage Sri Lanka had had hopes of dismissing West Indies for under 200, they were forced instead to reply to a first innings of 414 for 8 declared. The visitors mustered only 185, granting West Indies a collossal 229-run lead, which was the basis of this victory.
“Our lower order has been one of the most consistent lower orders in world cricket for the last two or three years,” Holder said. “I always back the guys to come in and put up a partnership and put up a fight. It really started with the partnership that Shane and I had, and then Devendra came in and played an outstanding knock. Not only did he take time out of the game, he scored runs as well. That not only took time out of the game, it wore down the Sri Lankan bowlers and made it tough for them. I was always backing our guys to get us up to a really good score.”
So good had those lower-order partnerships been, that Holder did not even allow the innings to come to a natural ending. He declared with 10 overs still to play on the second day, and was rewarded with a furious spell of short bowling by Shannon Gabriel in particular. Sri Lanka were 31 for 3 before the close – having failed in a vital period of the match. Holder revealed his decision to declare at that stage was influenced by the weather; fewer than 10 overs had been bowled on the second morning, due to rain.
“The declaration was one where we felt we had enough in the first innings,” Holder said. “And with time lost on the second day, we wanted to be able to bowl at Sri Lanka that evening. It worked out in our favour.”
West Indies’ victory in Trinidad helps reverse a recent trend – that West Indies often lose the first Test of the series. Save for the series against Zimbabwe last year, West Indies had lost each of the first Tests in the nine previous series. The last time they had won a first Test against a top-nine side was way back in 2014, at home against Bangladesh.
“We had a lot of time to sit back and reflect on how the last year ended,” Holder said. “To start this series the way we’ve started it is quite pleasing. Knowing that in the past we’ve lost at the start of the series and were playing catch-up cricket, it was good to come out of the gates on a winning note.”