Jason Holder dedicated West Indies’ stunning victory in the second Test in Antigua to Alzarri Joseph and his family, after the young fast bowler played on despite the overnight death of his mother, Sharon, to help deliver a 10-wicket victory over England, and with it, an unassailable 2-0 series lead.
Holder once again led from the front with figures of 4 for 43, including the first-ball wicket of opener Rory Burns, as England shipped all ten of their second-innings wickets for 97 runs to leave West Indies to knock off a desultory target of 14 in the space of 13 balls.
But, speaking at the end of a hugely emotional day, Holder admitted that the death of Joseph’s mother, who had been ill for some time with a brain tumour, had forced his team to come together and put on a show in support of their bereaved team-mate.
“It’s difficult to describe the feelings,” said Holder. “We started the day with a daunting task, trying to push on our lead, and then we got the news about Alzarri’s mum so we all wanted to rally around one another and we wanted to do it for her.”
Joseph, who had claimed the wicket of Joe Denly in the first innings with the first ball he had ever bowled in a Test on his home island, took a full part in the team’s warm-ups, and was then given a long and sympathetic ovation by the crowd when he came out to bat at No.10 in West Indies’ first innings. He scored 7 from 20 balls to help stretch their lead to a precious 119, with players from both sides wearing black armbands as a mark of respect.
Joseph then delivered a searing seven-over spell to help devastate England’s prospects of a fightback, bowling Joe Denly with an inducker before having Joe Root caught behind on review, and also having Ben Stokes dropped at slip for what would have been a second-ball duck.
“Alzarri was exceptional. It took a lot of heart for him to be on the field today, I think a lot of people wouldn’t have been able to, but credit to him.
“The way he ran in this afternoon was exceptional and with a bit more luck he could have got three or four more wickets and could have put in a man-of-the-match performance.
“I just want to say condolences to him and his family, it is a tough loss. I came here two or three years ago and visited his mum, she wasn’t doing well at that stage but fought through, so I felt it personally this morning when I got the news that she had passed away.
“To see him in tears this morning was even harder, and we came together in the huddle and we just wanted to do it for him and we dedicate this day to him, his mum and his family.
“It was up to him if he played. I didn’t want to deprive him of the opportunity to take the field. If he felt he could manage and take the field for the West Indies and perform then I wasn’t going to deprive him of that.
“For sure I knew he wanted to do something special for his mum and credit to him, he held his hand up high and did an exceptional job for us.
Although the off-field news helped to galvanise West Indies on a crucial day of the series, the scale of their victory had been hard-earned by their efforts throughout the first two days of the Antigua Test and all throughout their win in Barbados.
And Holder, who rose to become the No.1 allrounder in Test cricket on the back of his double-century in the first Test, said that a triumph of this magnitude was richly deserved after the manner in which the team had grown together under his leadership.
“I think were hungry for success,” he said. “We’ve been together for a year and a half, two years, and we’ve done some exceptional things, so credit to the boys for sticking to the task.
“I wasn’t in Bangladesh [where West Indies lost 2-0 before Christmas] but the boys had a really long hard talk in the dressing room, and it was really needed. We wanted some honesty and to touch on a few areas where we’ve probably shied away in the past.
“It’s been an up and down journey, but one I’ve thoroughly enjoyed,” he added. “It’s been challenging but I’m not one to shy away from challenges, I’m proud of myself for the way I’ve stuck it through, because there’ve been some very, very tough days, but credit to my team-mates for helping me get through it. I can’t be here without them. They deserve the credit, and hopefully we can stay together in the years to come.”