West Indies coach Phil Simmons believes that the extended preparations after early arrival due to COVID-19 protocols have actually played a key part in his side’s four-wicket win over England in the first Test at Southampton.
West Indies, who arrived in England on June 9 and trained in a bio-secure environment after that, beat the home side by four wickets on Sunday on the final day of the first Test after the COVID-19 outbreak to take a 1-0 lead in the three-match series.
“I think that has been the biggest influence on the performance. The fact that we’ve been here for that period of time, we’ve had quality bowling in the nets because we’ve had nearly 11 seamers here, you can’t put a price on that,” he said on the eve of the second Test starting at Old Trafford on Thursday.
“I don’t like to go back into my (playing) days, but we would come to England and play something like three or four proper warm-up games before the first Test, and we would also have three-day or four-day games in between the Test matches. So I think that period of training goes a long way to how we performed in that first Test.”
While praising the resolve of his players in the first Test, especially Jermaine Blackwood’s decisive 95 on the final day and Shannon Gabriel’s nine-wicket haul in the match, Simmons warned the West Indies cricketers to guard against complacency.
“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. 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.
“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,” the 57-year-old former all-rounder said.
He said the first Test win is “history” and the focus should now be on the second match here.
“You don’t come to England and just win a Test match,” he said.
“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.”
Simmons, in particular, heaped praise on pacer Gabriel, who was originally not in West Indies’ first-choice 14, but was later added to the squad after he proved his fitness post his return from an ankle surgery.
“The hardest time for bowlers, after bowling from the morning, is that last session,” 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.”