LONDON: England batsmen must prepare well if they are to get the better of a ‘formidable’ West Indies bowling attack in the three-Test series next month, captain Joe Root has said.

West Indies will be banking heavily on their pace attack in England to defend the Wisden Trophy which they won after triumphing 2-1 on home soil in the 2019 series.

Root said England could not afford to lower their guard against an attack which featured three bowlers — West Indies captain Jason Holder, Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel — who are among the top 20 in official Test rankings.

“We are very aware of the skill West Indies have and what they will bring to this series,” Root told BBC Sport. “One thing that stood out was how formidable their bowling attack can be. It is really important we prepare well and we are ready for all of that.”

Holder is also the top ranked Test all-rounder, followed by England’s Ben Stokes, and West Indies head coach Phil Simmons has predicted their rivalry would light up the series.

“Jason is one of the most well-respected guys in international cricket,” Root said. “He took the job at a young age and we are starting to see him at the peak of his career. He comes across as a very good bloke. I am looking forward to chatting to him from a social distance.”

Root has said he would miss the series opener in Southampton from July 8 should it clash with the birth of his second child with vice-captain Stokes taking the reins in his absence.

Manchester hosts the last two Tests of the series which will be played behind closed doors in a bio-secure environment at Old Trafford.

Meanwhile, Joseph hopes it will work to his advantage if England treat him as the ‘weaker link’ of the visiting side’s’ pace attack.

“Well obviously those three guys have a lot more experience than I do,” the 23-year-old Joseph, who has played just nine Tests, told a conference call. “I think more often than not teams will see myself as the weaker link, so I think my job is to come in and just back up those bowlers and keep the pressure on.”

He added: “It’s not necessarily because of age but because of the amount of matches played compared to the other three bowlers.

“But yeah, I can use it as an advantage for me, because I know my abilities, they might not know, but once I get out there on the day and get the job done, I know I can get on top of any opponent.

“I see this tour as an opportunity for me to help the team push higher up the rankings.”

It is set to be Joseph’s second series in England after he was a member of the West Indies squad that suffered a 2-1 loss in 2017.

“I think I have made some improvements as a bowler, that was a really big learning experience for me, my first time in England,” he said.

“So I have some experience here now, I’ll know more about these conditions the second time around.

“The ball does a bit more here in England than in the Caribbean, so it needs some slight adjustments.”

Published in Dawn, June 28th, 2020