Spin rules at pacers' Mecca
Bridgetown, Barbados – Spin bowling proved decisive for a victorious West Indies in the first test against Zimbabwe at a venue with a long standing reputation for being a home for ferocious fast bowling.
Bridgetown’s Kensington Oval has its two ends named after West Indian fast bowling greats – Joel Garner and Malcolm Marshall – but it was spinner Shane Shillingford and part timer Marlon Samuels who proved the heroes of their latest test victory.
The 30-year-old Shillingford took nine wickets in the match and Samuels grabbed four in the first innings as West Indies beat Zimbabwe by nine wickets in just two-and-a-half days to go 1-0 up in the two-match series.
The variable bounce in the Barbados capital was expertly exploited by the tall Shillingford, marking his recall to the Test arena after a lean series against England last year. He took 6-49 in the second innings to wrap up the contest on Thursday and a match haul of 9-107.
Samuels did not bowl in the second innings but posted a test best 4-13 in the first with his occasional off spin. He took a wicket with his first ball and wrapped up the tail as Zimbabwe scored 211 in their first innings. Seven of Zimbabwe's first innings wickets were taken by spinners in a feat not achieved in more than 50 years at the Kensington Oval.
Shillingford was even more effective in the second as Zimbabwe were dismissed for 107, leaving the West Indies just 12 runs to chase down for the win.
“He’s had a good season in first class competition,” said captain Darren Sammy on the reason Shillingford got the nod for only his ninth Test.
Shillingford said his success was not unexpected. “I’ve played here a few times in the domestic season already and it's a ground where I have always taken wickets.
“I tried to get a consistent line first up and then try and spin the ball as much as possible at regular pace and put it in good areas,” he added after receiving the Man-of-the-Match award from Roland Butcher, former England batsman.
The pressure from the spinners is unlikely to let up for the under fire Zimbabwe, whose lack of experience was cruelly exposed in their first test in 14 months.
The second Test starting next Wednesday at Windsor Park in Dominica, Shillingford’s home island where he took 10 wickets against Australia last April.
“Hopefully I can play a good part in Dominica again,” he said.