It’s been a tough few weeks at the office for the West Indies. Though there have been some marvellous solo efforts from certain players, they haven’t been able to come together and click as a team. All the potentially potent players have done well in tour matches, but when the big match came around, the cricket part of their brains has collectively switched off.
The team had a brief chance to test their mettle in a tour match against Leicestershire over the weekend and Adrian Barath, with Darren Bravo, dug in deep and scored some runs, Barath adding an unbeaten 53 and Bravo chipping in with 66 off 97 before being dismissed by Robert Taylor. The rain then came and spoiled the party, so there was no chance for Tino Best or Fidel Edwards to bedazzle some English batsmen, something which the selectors might be slightly concerned about since they have to pick somebody to fill the spot left by injured Kemar Roach, who has flown back to the Caribbean due to injury.
While many might see Roach’s absence as a tragedy, he has struggled for consistency in the first two Tests. Roach went through bursts of threatening spells, but far too often ran out of steam and failed to go for the jugular. The open spot will be battled for between Edwards and Best. The latter has not played a Test match since 2009. The last time the quick was in the side was during the player strike and in his last Test, against Bangladesh, he went wicketless in 19 overs and the West Indies lost the Test match by four wickets. Best reckons he’s ready, though, should opportunity come knocking. “I’m very happy to be recalled for the Test squad,” he said. “I’ve been waiting for my opportunity to represent the West Indies again and this is another opportunity to wear the Baggy Maroon.”
“I’m fit and feeling quite ready. I’ve been training and working hard, looking forward to this. I was in the team earlier this year when we played against Australia and I gained a lot of knowledge from being in the group. I felt I fitted in quite well and I have a good idea of the work ethic and what will be required of me.”
Another major change to the West Indies side is that Shane Shillingford could drop out and hot property Sunil Narine will come in to replace him. Narine has been the man to watch and, though he has yet to play a Test for West Indies, he’s been impressive in all the other formats of the game. Considering England’s woes against spin during their series against Pakistan, Narine will be licking his lips at the opportunity to impress on the biggest stage of them all. Narine has played a mere six First Class games for Trinidad, but he was impressive in the longer format. In his six matches, Narine took 34 wickets, including two five-wicket hauls and two 10 wicket hauls.
England will be without James Anderson, who is being rested to manage his workload ahead of a packed summer schedule. The English are not short on replacements and lanky paceman Steven Finn will most likely take his place.
The weather is not looking great, though, and heavy rain is forecast for the first day’s play. Should they have enough overs, Andrew Strauss will hope that his charges can finally come together and completely dominate as one would expect of the world’s number one ranked Test team. England have struggled here and there in the series and, if they won the first two Tests comfortably, they’ve not really stamped their authority on a somewhat average West Indies outfit.
Players to watch
Ian Bell – Bell has been in fine form for his county team, Warwickshire, and in the first Test against the West Indies he looked mighty impressive. With Kevin Pietersen now out of the shorter formats of the game, Bell will want to stake his claim as a possible replacement.
Sunil Narine – if Narine does make his debut, he will be the man to watch for the tourists. The hype surrounding him has been humongous and, though Test cricket is a different kettle of fish compared to the IPL, if his performances there are anything to go by he will be simply magnificent. Don’t say we didn’t tell you say if he takes a 10-wicket haul on debut. DM
Photo: West Indies’ Sunil Narine attempts to catch a ball during a training session before the third cricket test match against England at Edgbaston cricket ground in Birmingham June 5, 2012. (REUTERS/Philip Brown)
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