In his 8 year long Cricketing career, Jermaine Blackwood has developed a reputation of being an aggressive, stroke playing batsman. But in the first Test against England at the Ageas Bowl, with the visitors struggling at 27/3, he walked out to bat and showed immense maturity, curbing his natural game, he played out the danger possessed by the early spells of James Anderson and Jofra Archer. His gritty, responsible knock drew high praise from commentator Michael Holding, who specified that even if Blackwood did not win the game for his team, he has done his job. Unfortunately, with 11 runs left to the target and 5 away from his hundred, Blackwood was dismissed, but, much like what Holding said, he had done his job.
Holder praised Blackwood and noted that he was a team-man, who could “carry everybody on his shoulders”. Blackwood, who was dropped after the Test series against India last year, came back in the reckoning for the West Indies squad after a scintillating 248 for Jamaica against the Leeward Islands in the domestic 4-day Championship earlier this year, walking in to bat at 40/1.
About the knock against England three days ago, he said that it was one of the finest innings of his career. He said on Tuesday, “It’s up there because I haven’t played international cricket for a long time. I was disappointed to get out. It was mostly the worry about not getting the team over the line. I am a confident guy. It wasn’t difficult (curbing natural instincts). I just said to myself that I am just going to bat and bat as long as possible. I know once I bat 100 balls, or 200 balls, I am going to score runs.”
Blackwood has had a tendency to get out to soft dismissals. The same happened in the first innings of the first Test. Upon receiving advice from West Indies and Windward Islands opener, Devon Smith, he went on to improve his defensive game, bringing up his maiden double-hundred in first-class cricket in the process. “When I started playing for West Indies, I would go after the attack from ball one. I wasn’t giving myself a chance. This year, I told myself I am going to give myself more chance and bat for as long as possible. That was my plan for the longer format. I’ve always got some fire in me. It’s all about going out there and doing my best for the team. In the last two years, I have been working really hard,” said Blackwood.
Phil Simmons, West Indies head coach, heaped praises on the side for the kind of hard work they put in over the last few weeks. He said, “For me, it was a great win because I think that it signified a lot of hard work being done by the players over the last four or five weeks. But you don’t come to England and just win a Test match. It was a top-class Test match, with good cricket played by both teams, and even coming down to the last hour, it could have gone either way. To come out on top. It’s been great for us, and it was important because you don’t want to have to chase England in England. So the chasing is from their point of view now. But you guard against complacency by just trying to do the same things you did before the first Test. Right now that Test match is history. We’ve got to be thinking about what we do from Thursday to Monday.”
He was all praises for fast bowlers Alzarri Joseph and Man of the Match Shannon Gabriel, for the way the two of them bowled in the final session of day 4. Gabriel, who was returning from an ankle injury, was included in the squad only after he proved his fitness in the net sessions and practice games.Simmons said, “To see him (Gabriel) and Alzarri (Joseph) come up trumps in that session is so pleasing to us. With him coming back from that ankle surgery and working as hard he has worked since we’ve been here, it was a joy to see him successful in that period.”
Simmons also gave an update on Campbell’s fitness. The opener was hit by a swinging yorker from Archer on the final day of the Test and had to retire hurt before returning to bat at number eight. He also said that the West Indies’ think-tank would look at the pitch for the second Test at Old Trafford before deciding on the playing XI.
“John seems to be walking better…we will only know tomorrow…and so he looks like he will be fine. So we haven’t thought about a replacement. I will see the wicket tomorrow and see if it is unchanged but everyone seems to be saying so/thinking so.”