Cricket-Wilting West Indies aim for top-order solidity in second test

FILE PHOTO: Cricket - Second Test - England v West Indies - Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester, Britain - July 19, 2020 West Indies head coach Phil Simmons with the players before the start of play, as play resumes behind closed doors following the outbreak of the coronavirus disease (COVID-19) Michael Steele/Pool via REUTERS

(Reuters) - West Indies must find a way to counter South Africa’s barrage of seamers if they are to square the series in the second test that starts on Friday, but they are unlikely to get much respite from the pitch at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground in Saint Lucia.

The home side were skittled out for 97 and 162 in the first test having been unable to handle the pace and movement of the tourists' bowlers on a helpful wicket.

But home seamer Kemar Roach says the steep learning curve from that game could be beneficial in the long run.

"I think it’s good to have a pitch like this in the Caribbean so we can prepare ourselves for overseas tours," Roach told reporters.

"The pitch bounced a lot more than I have seen in a while. It reminds me of a wicket in Australia or probably South Africa, so it’s about us adapting. It’s about taking on the challenge and trying to be as positive as we can."

Coach Phil Simmons had bemoaned his top order batting frailties after the defeat by an innings and 63 runs in the first game.

It has long been a problem and the reason why West Indies have won only three of their 29 previous tests against South Africa.

"It’s one of the things we have been desperately trying to work on because if you look back, a lot of times when we win test matches against top teams we have good opening stands," Simmons said.

"It’s disappointing because when you look at the last seven test 100s scored by an opener, I think they were all scored by Kraigg (Brathwaite). We are trying to work very hard on that."

South Africa will bring back middle order batsman Temba Bavuma if he passes a late fitness test after he missed the first game with a hip problem. That is likely to be the only change.

"We need to try and replicate what happened in the first test," captain Dean Elgar said. "It was clinical and ruthless; our bowlers led the pack brilliantly and a lot of senior players put their hands up.

"The wicket looks similar, we have had a bit of rain around the island so it might be a bit softer, but from a grass cover point of view it looks similar to the first test."

(Reporting by Nick Said; Editing by Ken Ferris)

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