Thursday, 07 June 2012 02:30
By Ian Magic Hughes
Antigua St John's - The West Indies take on England in the third and final Test of the three-Test series starting in Edgbaston today.
The Windies are trailing two Tests to nil and will be hoping for a win this match to salvage some pride before the start of the One Day International (ODI) tournament, which should see Chris Gayle in the line-up.
Gayle was called up for the West Indies side after more than a year out of the team due to issues between the player, coach and management.
The left-handed Jamaican will make his return following a blistering time at the crease with the Royal Challengers Bangalore in the Indian Premier League (IPL), where he was the tournament’s top scorer with 733 runs.
Gayle also led the IPL in sixes for the tournament: 59; and the highest individual score, 128 not out.
For now though, the West Indies concerns are not Gayle and the one-day games, but rather how to salvage pride going into today’s final Test where consistent batting has been a major letdown.
Coach Otis Gibson is certainly aware of his team’s problems, the greatest of which is batting - especially at the top of the order. The English weather conditions and Windies’ inconsistent bowling only add to the dilemma.
Gibson is hopeful going into today’s Test, but knows that the challenges are huge.
“When you look at how much good stuff we've done in the Test matches, one session, or sometimes 1½ sessions of poor decision-making by batsmen, or sometimes by the bowlers, have cost us at crucial times,” he said.
“You look at the amount of people that haven’t played in these conditions before, and the challenge we posted to England in the first Test [at Lord’s] especially.
“You look at the way we bowled on the third day [in the second Test] at Trent Bridge. Getting eight wickets for 169 runs was excellent – but to challenge the No.1 team in the world you have to deliver that excellence more consistently – and that’s where we’ve been falling down.”
Former West Indies captain Sir Vivian Richards, in England as an analyst, agrees with Gibson and had some strong words for some of the batsmen.
Richards was extremely critical of the way a number of the West Indian batsmen approached the game.
"It was immature and these individuals need to think about the requirements to play at this level," Richards told BBC Sport after the second Test.
"They must be given credit for the way they bowled, but (the) batters did not come to party and (they) need to sort their heads out where shot selection is concerned."
The West Indies selectors may be worried with the opening pair of Adrian Barath and Kieron Powell, who are yet to provide the touring side with any substantial partnerships thus far.
The two have recorded partnerships of 13, 36, 9 and 5 in four innings in the two Tests.
But Richards, who scored 8,540 runs in 121 Tests from 1974 to 1991, was especially critical of Denesh Ramdin, the team’s wicketkeeper.
"When he first came into the game I felt he was a huge prospect.
“For some reason, he has deteriorated in such a big way. Just the way he is walking back, he looks like a totally lost guy," Richards said.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul, the lone West Indian to play against England at Edgbaston the last time both teams met in 2004, is in good form; but he will need help from the top and middle order as well.
Darren Bravo and Narsingh Deonarine especially must improve their batting along with the opening pair, Captain Darren Sammy and the keeper.
Sammy has shown that he can handle the team and his century in the second match is a testament to his strong will.
He, however, needs help from the entire team.
On the bowling side, Shane Shillingford may have to give room to Sunil Narine, the spinner hoping for his debut with the West Indies Test team.
Narine just completed the IPL where, like Gayle, he topped the averages in two of four bowling categories in perhaps the fiercest 20/20 tournament besides the World Twenty-Twenty.
Playing with the Kolkata Knight Riders, Narine finished with the best averages of 13.5 per wicket and an economy rate of 5.47.
He took 24 wickets, second to Morne Morkel and had the second best bowling figures of five for 19. Only Ravindra Jadeja was better, with five for 16.
West Indies (probable) 1 Adrian Barath, 2 Kieron Powell, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 6 Narsingh Deonarine, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Darren Sammy (capt), 9 Tino Best, 10 Ravi Rampaul, 11 Sunil Narine.
The home team has already won the series and has decided to rest pacer James Anderson for this match.
Kevin Pietersen has announced his retirement from the one-day format of the game and with that may give the home team something to remember.
Captain Andrew Strauss needs 87 runs to reach 7,000 test runs and with his recent form should get there with ease.
England could rest pacer Stuart Broad along with Anderson.
If that is not the case, however, it becomes a straight decision between Finn and Onions for the bowling slot.
Finn is next in line, but Onions' county form - where he has recently taken 11 in a match against Lancashire makes a compelling case.
England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Jonathan Trott, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Ian Bell, 6 Jonny Bairstow, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Graeme Swann, 11 Steven Finn.
The forecast may be bad news, especially for the visitors who would like to beat the number one Test team in the world.
They had some close encounters with Australia in the Caribbean before some encouraging sessions against England in the previous two Tests.
Heavy rain is forecast for today and is expected to impact the outcome of the game.
Pitches at Edgbaston produce excellent Test cricket and if the cloud cover stays around the pace bowlers will find particular encouragement.
The two teams have met eight times at Edgbaston with West Indies winning four and England two. The last meeting was in 2004 when England won by 256 runs.