England seek to draw level in a Test series that they were favoured to win when they face West Indies in the second Test,starting on Friday at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground in Antigua.
England were upset in the opening Test at Kingston,where they were bowled out for 51 in their second innings and crashed to an innings and 23-run defeat inside four days to hand West Indies a 1-0 lead in the four-Test series.
The visitors face a crucial challenge in the match. Another defeat for England would give West Indies an unassailable lead in the series and end their nine-year spell of Test series defeats against them.
But there are reasons for England to be hopeful about a reversal from their sensational demolition last Saturday at Sabina Park.
Barring back-to-back wins over Bangladesh,West Indies have not won consecutive matches in the last 10 years. England should also recall that West Indies also outplayed South Africa in Port Elizabeth two Decembers ago,and they still lost a four-Test series 2-1.
The visitors also remember that the last time they crumbled in a Test in the Caribbean,when Michael Atherton’s side were bowled out for 46 at Port of Spain,their predecessors rebounded with a 208-run victory in Barbados which was highlighted by hundreds in each innings from Alec Stewart.
“If there were massive divisions in the side,I would be worried,but I do not think they are,” England captain Andrew Strauss said.
“I think there were some quality performances in the first Test,so it’s not all doom and gloom,but given what happened,we need to get over it. We will need to re-formulate some of the plans in terms of how we play the West Indies’ bowling,and also some of our plans for their batsmen as well. So there is plenty of work for us to do,but we have got to remain calm and hopeful. We need to make whatever adjustments are necessary individually to become better,sooner rather than later.”
West Indies captain Chris Gayle admitted that a single Test victory – as dramatic as the opening Test was – will not be enough to satisfy his side,let alone their fans,that they have turned the proverbial corner.
“We’re not going to be lackadaisical for sure,” he said. “But we will not put any additional pressure on ourselves because the expectations are going to be high. People are going to be looking for us to go out there and do even better. But we just need to play some good,simple,basic cricket like what we did in Jamaica. People said we batted too slow in the opening Test,but patient innings really,really count,since time is very important,especially in a Test match. So it’s going to be really important for us to stick to the basics. We have to take it one step at a time and see how we cope with it.
“The first session will be key as well because we know that England will be coming hard at us.”
Though the team management have called for cool heads to prevail,England are more than likely to make changes to their line-up.
Two soft dismissals and the rising tide of criticism should see Ian Bell lost his place to Owais Shah. Monty Panesar’s hardly fruitful toil on a pitch where Sulieman Benn snared eight wickets places him under the microscope with Graeme Swann waiting.
Steve Harmison and Ryan Sidebottom looked way below their best and James Anderson presents a viable alternative.
Though there could be few complaints about their batting in the opening Test,West Indies chose to fortify their batting reserves.
They have brought left-handed all-rounder Ryan Hinds and utility player Lendl Simmons into their 14-member squad. But the selectors face a difficult choice about how to accommodate either or both of them,since only one sure place has opened up in the batting,following the omission of Xavier Marshall.
West Indies (from): Chris Gayle (captain),Lionel Baker,Sulieman Benn,Shivnarine Chanderpaul,Fidel Edwards,Ryan Hinds,Brendan Nash,Daren Powell,Denesh Ramdin,Ramnaresh Sarwan,Lendl Simmons,Devon Smith,Jerome Taylor.
England (from): Andrew Strauss (captain),Alastair Cook (vice captain),Tim Ambrose,James Anderson,Ian Bell,Stuart Broad,Paul Collingwood,Andrew Flintoff,Steve Harmison,Monty Panesar,Kevin Pietersen,Matt Prior,Adil Rashid,Owais Shah,Ryan Sidebottom,Graeme Swann.