West Indies suffer run drought at the top

West Indies respond better under pressure - Holder (2:16)

Captain Jason Holder lays out his thoughts on his side's bowling combination for the second Test and the need for their batting to improve (2:16)

West Indies have won five of the 13 Tests they have played since 2018. They have also lost seven. They have not been the most successful Test team in this period. But they also don't have the worst win-loss record either. Pakistan and Bangladesh - among teams that have played at least ten matches during this period - have done worse.

Each of those five wins though, have come on the back of a strong and rejuvenated pace attack at home. West Indies' bowling attack has averaged the third-best in Tests since 2018. The highest any team has managed to score in these five Tests against them is 246, which England did in their second innings in Bridgetown. Only in two of the ten innings in these five matches have teams managed to top 200 against them. Their bowling is in fine fettle. But their batting is not.

While their bowling attack is in the right half of the charts in Tests, their batting has let them down. West Indies' batting average of 23.16 is 2 runs lower than the lowest established Test teams above them. The only teams that have done worse in terms of average are the new entrants in Test cricket - Ireland and Afghanistan. West Indies have had some good rearguard innings from their batsmen in the recent past, but most of them have come from their middle and lower-middle order. The combined average of West Indies batsmen at No. 5 and lower is the second-best for any team since 2018. It's the top four that have been a cause for concern.

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In 13 Tests since 2018, their top four average a woeful 20.49 - the second lowest any team's top four average during this period. Only Ireland have done worse. The next-lowest average for any team that has played at least ten matches since 2018 is Bangladesh's 27.88.

It is telling that the top four run-scorers for West Indies since 2018 bat outside their top four. Shane Dowrich who largely bats at No. 7 or lower for them leads this list with 678 runs scored at an average of 39.88. Jason Holder's average of 47.07 is the highest among West Indies batsmen since 2018. Kraigg Brathwaite, who opens for them, manages to appear only on the fifth place in this list.

It's no surprise then their batsman from No. 5 to No. 8 have a combined average that is significantly better than what their top four have collectively averaged in the last couple of years. West Indies' middle and lower-middle order has averaged 32.61 runs since 2018 - a whopping 12 runs per dismissal more than their top four. West Indies' top four have contributed just 37.18% of the total runs scored by their batsmen since 2018. This is the lowest contribution by any top four to their team during this period.

Brathwaite is the only batsman batting before their No. 5 to hit a hundred in the last couple of years, both of which came in the home series against Bangladesh. But it's been a drought otherwise: in 23 innings apart from those hundreds, Brathwaite has managed to score just 313 runs at an average of 14.90. He has been dismissed for single-digit scores in 11 of those 23 innings. The others don't seem to be very different from Brathwaite in this aspect. Their top four has batted a combined 98 innings since 2018, but has got out without managing double-digit scores on 40 occasions. Among the top Test teams only Pakistan have done worse in terms of percentage of innings at No. 4 or earlier ending in single-digit scores.

However, Pakistan's batsmen have capitalised on starts better than any other team's in this period. Out of the 36 times that they have crossed the score of 20 runs, they've got at least a fifty on 19 occasions. That's a twenty-to-fifty conversion rate of 52.78% - the highest among all top teams. Unfortunately, for West Indies that is where their top four let their team down again. They have reached a score of 20 on 32 instances, but have converted them into fifties or more on only nine times. Their twenty-to-fifty conversion rate of 28.13% is the worst among teams since 2018.

Shai Hope is the other batsmen to have got a regular run at the top for West Indies. But Hope has failed to bring his recent ODI form to Tests. In 20 innings at the top, Hope has averaged 19.60 with just one fifty. Among those to bat at least 15 times in the top four since 2018, only India's M Vijay has done worse. In fact, among all batsmen to have batted in at least 15 innings at No. 4 or earlier since 2018, three West Indies batsmen are among the five with the worst averages.

Unlike India, who have dropped Vijay and have given an extended run to KL Rahul perhaps only only because Prithvi Shaw is unavailable for selection, West Indies don't seem to have the luxury of a pool of performances to choose from. The newest of their nine batsmen who've been tried in the top four in the last couple of years is Shamarh Brooks, who averages a modest 32.90 in his first-class career.

Unfortunately, West Indies seem to have run out of options in their batting department just when their pace attack is at the best it has been in nearly two decades. Admittedly, they have played only four matches this year, but the numbers don't paint a pretty picture. Their top four's combined average of 20.35 this year is their worst ever in any year in Test history.

Before this year, 2018 was the worst. Their top four haven't collectively averaged 30 runs per dismissals in five calendar years since 2015. Pace bowling in the Caribbean seems to have turned the clock back. West Indies desperately need their batting to follow suit.