GROS ISLET, St Lucia – Uncapped teenaged fast bowler Jayden Seales is a shock inclusion in a 13-man West Indies squad announced on Tuesday for the opening Test against South Africa bowling off here later this week.
The 19-year-old, with a single first-class game and a single wicket to his name, will feature alongside openers Shai Hope and Kieran Powell, who have both gained a recall after contrasting spells on the sidelines.
Speedster Shannon Gabriel has been ruled out with injury, however, while veteran left-hander Darren Bravo has been dropped from the 17-man provisional squad named last weekend.
Wicketkeeper Jahmar Hamilton and left-arm spinner Jomel Warrican are the other two players to miss out on the opening Test which bowls off at the Daren Sammy National Stadium on Thursday.
Seales of T&T has been fast-tracked into the international setup since representing West Indies at the Under-19 World Cup last year and was one of the six reserve players who travelled with the Test squad on last December’s tour of New Zealand.
However, the right-arm has never played a regional first-class match and has only turned out in the three List A games – all coming in this year’s Regional Super50 for Trinidad and Tobago.
His solitary first-class appearance came for West Indies A on the New Zealand tour when he sent down 21 overs with little to show for his efforts.
However, chief selector Roger Harper said Seales’s five-wicket match haul in last week’s inter-squad four-day warm-up match had swung the pendulum in the inexperienced player’s favour.
“Jayden Seales is young, very enthusiastic and has a big heart,” Harper said in a statement on the squad.
“In the ‘Best v Best’ [inter-squad match] he bowled with pace, got movement and has displayed the ability to take wickets. We think he is capable of adding potency to the bowling attack.”
Seales has managed to leapfrog the likes of 24-year-old pacer Keon Harding who was not even included in the provisional squad but is one of the four-seamers remaining from the just concluded 30-man high-performance camp “to assist the Test squad with their preparations”.
Harding, a reserve on last year’s three-Test tour of England and who featured in Bangladesh with the one-day squad earlier this year, has taken 54 first-class matches from 17 matches.
In the last first-class season, curtailed with two rounds still left last year due to the caronavirus (COVID-19) pandemic, Harding snatched 29 wickets at 23 wickets apiece.
He picked up two wickets in the first innings of the recent inter-squad fixture.
As expected, Hope has earned a recall to the Test side, less than a year after being dropped following a protracted run of poor form.
But he has continued to score heavily in ODIs, averaging 86 in the three-match series against Sri Lanka last March, and his 79 and 106 in the inter-squad fixture only further served to pave the way back to the longest format.
The left-handed Powell, meanwhile, has not featured in Test colours for nearly 2-½ years but struck 95 in the second innings of the practice match to impress, on the back of a decent 2019/20 first-class campaign.
“Kieran Powell we know is a very capable batsman who we expect to add quality and depth to the batting department,” Harper pointed out.
“He put himself in the mix with his performance in the Best v Best match.
“Shai Hope has performed very well in the red ball matches he has played, following on the back of his highly successful One-Day International series against Sri Lanka, so he has forced his way into the squad by performance.”
There is no room for Bravo, who failed twice in the inter-squad game and has averaged 11 from his last seven Tests.
Kraigg Brathwaite, who missed the high-performance camp due to his commitments with English county Gloucestershire, has returned to lead West Indies who are unbeaten this year in four Tests.
SQUAD – Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Jermaine Blackwood (vice captain), Nkrumah Bonner, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Joshua Da Silva, Jason Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Kieran Powell, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales. (More to follow later)