MANCHESTER: West Indies captain Jason Holder took a wicket in his first over of the tour of England on Wednesday.

The pace bowling all-rounder struck on the penultimate day of the West Indies’ second and final intra-squad game at Old Trafford ahead of next week’s first Test against England in Southampton.

Stumps were reached before the death aged 95 of West Indies batting great Everton Weekes was announced later on Wednesday.

After reserve wicket-keeper Joshua Da Silva carried his bat made an impressive 133 not out, West Indies’ likely first choice batsmen and bowlers were in direct opposition in Manchester.

Shannon Gabriel, officially classified as a travelling reserve but on course to play in the first of a three-match behind closed doors series, removed John Campbell and Shai Hope as a Kraigg Brathwaite XI declined to nine for three on the third day of four.

Holder did not bowl in the first internal warm-up match last week amid concerns over an ankle injury but the all-rounder removed Shamarh Brooks with his sixth delivery on Wednesday and got through five overs in all.

That Brathwaite’s men reached stumps on 112 for seven in response to the 272 all out made by Holder’s team, highlighted fears that the West Indies’ leading batsmen may struggle to give their impressive bowling attack enough runs to play with during the upcoming three-match series.

Meanwhile, Cricket West Indies (CWI) have said head coach Phil Simmons’ job is safe despite the Barbados association’s chief demanding his ‘immediate removal’ after attending a funeral in England.

Simmons is self-isolating in his on-site hotel room at Old Trafford after attending his father-in-law’s funeral last Friday.

The CWI had said on Sunday Simmons was granted permission prior to the start of the tour but Barbados Cricket Association chief Conde Riley said it had been ‘inconsiderate and reckless’ to attend the funeral amid the Covid-19 pandemic.

“I want to assure West Indies cricket fans that Phil Simmons still has the full backing of CWI, no matter what has been said,” CWI president Ricky Skerritt said on Wednesday. “When all is said and done, Phil’s job is not in any way threatened by that letter.

“He went through a very vigorous recruitment process nine months ago and was the best man we could have found for the job. He’s still the best man.”

Simmons has already cleared two Covid-19 tests and can rejoin the squad if he tests negative in a third examination.

The 57-year-old said it was important for him to be with his family and that it would not affect the squad’s preparations for the series.

“It won’t disrupt us. It will just make us a little stronger going into the Test series,” he said.

Published in Dawn, July 3rd, 2020