|Player:||RS Bopara, CH Gayle|
DateLine: 6th May 2009
It has been barely a month that both the teams had locked horns and now they take on each other in another Test series. Some players, most notably Chris Gayle, have only just made it back from the IPL as Test cricket struggles to show it still remains a top priority.
For England it is a vitally important contest as they search for that elusive momentum to carry forward. They start favourites but it shouldn't be forgotten that they handed back the Wisden Trophy with their 1-0 defeat in the Caribbean. A fresh-looking team will take the field with a new No. 3 and the possibility of two debutant seamers. But after the upheavals of the last 12 months England are still playing catch-up as they try to work out their best combination.
West Indies, though, have struggled in the early stages of the tour and head into the Test on the back of a 10-wicket warm-up defeat against England Lions. The batting has been especially unconvincing and it still isn't clear who Gayle will open with. At least in Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards they have two quicks who can seriously trouble England, although they will have to shed some of their sweaters to bowl at full speed.
Ravi Bopara is the latest candidate to be thrown into the No. 3 spot and the most exciting option the selectors could have taken. It is a gamble from the selectors as Bopara has rarely batted at three for Essex, but he isn't short on confidence. His previous Test innings was a maiden century in Barbados and, unlike some of his team-mates, he showed form at the IPL. This, though, is a huge challenge for him. Two good Tests and the Australians await.
England's only unanswered question is whether to try something different and name two spinners for a May Test. In fact, they haven't played two spinners at home since facing New Zealand, at Old Trafford, in 1999. Given the run of six draws at this ground they need to try something to take 20 wickets, but two twirlers are still unlikely. So it means debuts for Graham Onions (headline writers get ready) and Tim Bresnan with both knowing a good performance will set up their summer.
England : Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Ravi Bopara, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Matt Prior (wk), Stuart Broad, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, Graham Onions, James Anderson
Fidel Edwards produced some of the most hostile spells in the recent Caribbean series and was the quickest bowler on either side. He, like Gayle, has been at the IPL so will quickly have to switch from Twenty20 into Test mode. He has become used to bowling on the flat pitches in West Indies, so give him some life in early-season England and he'll be a real handful.
Chris Gayle confirmed that Sulieman Benn will start, but other than revealed nothing about his final XI. He hasn't had much time to think about it. In the top order there is the problem of finding someone to partner Gayle with both Devon Smith and Dale Richards out of form. Lendl Simmons has been in the runs, but he was originally picked as a middle order player. In the bowling there are two uncapped quicks in the squad - Andrew Richardson and Nelon Pascal - but the temptation will be to strength the batting with an allrounder. Darren Sammy has played one previous Test in England and took 7 for 66 on debut at Old Trafford so could come into the reckoning.
West Indies : Chris Gayle (capt), Devon Smith, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Lendl Simmons, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Brendan Nash, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Darren Sammy, Jerome Taylor, Sulieman Benn, Fidel Edwards
Umpires : Steve Davis (Australia) and Asoka de Silva (Sri Lanka)
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