Simmons highlights Holder, Stokes rivalry

Jason Holder

MANCHESTER, England – West Indies head coach Phil Simmons expects the rivalry between leading all-rounders Jason Holder and Ben Stokes to be one of the highlights of the upcoming Test series.

Holder, the West Indies captain, has emerged as Test cricket’s leading all-rounder, while Ben Stokes is ranked number two in the ICC charts.

“The rivalry is always there because I think Ben is the type of person who wants to be number one and if Jason is up there, he will be always looking to do his best to get Jason’s position,” Simmons said.

“I know Jason wants to be No. 1 and that’s why he is there, and he wants to keep that so the rivalry will be there throughout the series, and whenever the two guys are playing, they are competitive in all aspects so I think that rivalry will be huge for this series.”

Holder averages just under 33 with the bat from 40 Tests and 26 with the ball, having taken 106 Test wickets.

He was one of the leading fast bowlers in 2018, snatching 33 wickets from six Tests at an amazing average of 12.

And last year he proved sensational with the bat with a magnificent unbeaten double hundred against England at Kensington Oval.

Stokes, meanwhile, averages 36 from 63 matches and has scored nine hundreds. He has taken 147 wickets at an average of 32.

Simmons warned that Stokes was a dangerous player, especially with the bat, and said it was important West Indies targeted the left-hander.

“We know we have to get Stokes out,” Simmons stressed.

“I think Jason’s bowling is a stronger point than his batting and vice versa with Stokes, so I think it’s a case where we try and get Stokes early and nullify that threat later down in the innings.”

West Indies are the current holders of the Wisden Trophy but will start as underdogs in the three-Test series, having not won a series in England in 32 years.

England recently named a 30-man training group from which the final squad will be selected, and with several young players included, Simmons is hoping West Indies can exploit this inexperience.

“Having young players in the team can be a plus for us, but again, a couple of those young players have played a few games already and they have an idea of what it is like at this level, and the other thing is they’re playing at home,” Simmons pointed out.

“[And] there is no one shouting at them from over the boundary [either] so you get a chance to settle in.

“But it is a hard thing coming into Test cricket, and even though you’ve played two or three games, it’s still difficult so we’re going to try to put as much pressure on the younger players as we can.”

West Indies clash with England in the first Test at the Ageas Bowl starting July 8. The second Test is carded for Old Trafford on July 16 with the third Test scheduled to bowl off at the same venue eight days later.

All matches will be played behind closed doors due to the COVID-19 pandemic.