The 2018 edition of Football World Cup drove the World crazy for more than a month. Sports lovers all over the World were hooked in front of their TV sets to watch and cheer their favourite soccer players. Other sports events including all important Wimbledon took the back seat during the football fever month.
Cricket's story was not different either! There were few tournaments happening across the world including the high voltage Indian tour of England, but all were falling short in hype compared to the football carnival. Another one ending on an even quieter note was the Caribbean summer.
The summer of West Indies comprised of two series with touring Test sides Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, both having better records than hosts in recent times in Test Cricket! The series against Lankan Tigers comprised of 3 tests in June 2018 while Bangladesh toured to play a couple of Tests in July 2018.
A series well fought
West Indies started their summer with a bright note posting a mammoth 414 in the first Test at Port of Spain, Trinidad. The subcontinent Islanders struggled with the bat - first posting just 185 runs in their first innings conceding the lead of 229 runs, and then falling apart for just 226 chasing 453 in their second innings.
Windies continued their good show in the second test at Gros Islet, St Lucia as well before Lankans hit back with a big score in the second innings giving a stiff target to the hosts! But the Windies batters held their ground helping their team to settle for a draw.
The Day-Night test at Bridgetown became a low scoring affair. Though Windies took the first innings lead, they were undone by Lankan pace attack for a meagre 93 in the second innings. The fourth innings target of 144 looked tough under trying conditions but Lankan batsmen were able to scale it with 4 wickets to spare, hence levelling the series 1-1.
Though the opportunity of winning the series against SL was missed, the Windies had emerged as a confident side before the Bangladesh series which was scheduled soon after the Lanka series.
In the first test at Antigua, West Indies pace-men reduced Bangladesh to a paltry 43 in the first innings. Their batters further rubbed salt on their opponents' wounds by posting a mammoth 406 in the first innings. A deficit of 363 was too much for the emerging Asian Tigers as they holed out for another low score of 144 handing an innings victory to the hosts.
The consistent good show with bat in the first innings throughout the summer continued for Caribbean giants in the second test at Kingston, Jamaica as well. Batting first they posted a solid 354 before their pace-men got into their act again. They tore up the touring side batting line-up in both innings restricting them to 149 and 168 sealing the match by 166 runs and series 2-0.
Consistent batting display
Throughout the summer, the Windies batting unit looked quite settled with very minimal changes done to their batting line-up. They posted the first innings total of more than 200 runs in all the five tests played which gave them an advantage on bowling-friendly pitches.
Shane Dowrich set the tone for the hosts in the first test against Lankans with a steady 125 which helped his team to post 414 runs in the first innings after a top order collapse. His contributions were consistent throughout the series with 288 runs at an average of 57.6 rightly winning him "Player of the Series" title.
Captain Jason Holder was very consistent contributing useful runs with the bat in the lower middle order. The skipper was the second highest scorer for his team accumulating 198 runs in six innings at 39.6 with one fifty-plus score in his name.
Kraigg Brathwaite joined the party later in the summer scoring two back to back centuries against Bangladesh. In the process, he crossed the 3000 runs mark in Tests which can be termed as a significant achievement considering the recent form and performance of Windies team in Tests.
However, the giant share of contribution came from the Caribbean bowling department. They first claimed 46 wickets out of 56 Lankan scalps and then they went on to claim all but two wickets in the series against Bangladesh.
Paceman Shannon Gabriel entered into record books claiming the third best match haul ever by a Windies bowler. His 13-wicket haul in the second test against Lanka helped him cross 100 wicket mark.
If Gabriel troubled Lankans earlier in the summer, it was a Jason Holder show in the later part against Bangladesh. Captain Holder took 11 wickets in the second Test with a 5-wicket haul in each innings taking away both "Player of the Match" and "Player of the Series" honours.
Both Gabriel and Holder finished the summer with 28 wickets each, including three 5-wicket hauls each in their name. Another key pacer Kemar Roach threw his weight as well claiming 16 wickets in 4 matches with Miguel Cummins playing the supporting role very well throughout the series.
Steady progress under Holder's captaincy
It was the most successful summer for West Indians since 2013 after their series win against Zimbabwe. They registered 3 victories out of 5 Tests this summer including the 2-0 series sweep against Bangladesh.
It has been a good progress for Windies under Jason Holder who was handed over the captaincy in 2015. With all the white-ball stars finding themselves out of favour in red-ball format, it was a daunting task for young Holder to build the team full of inexperienced players.
After taking up the captaincy, except in the first series against England, Holder and his boys couldn't register a Test victory till late 2016. The victory in the third Test against Pakistan in Abu Dhabi started changing the things for good. Since then they have registered 6 victories taking the victory tally under Holder to 8 in 26 outings.
The next big test for Holder and his young team is the tour of India later in the year where they will play 2 tests against the No. 1 Test team. A good show there will go a long way in boosting their morale and enhance their progress as a Test team.