And so to St Lucia – the most beautiful island in the Caribbean. As Blighty freezes in artic temperatures, St Lucians will be perambulating across pure shores with only the sound of gentle breezes rustling through native palms to distract them. Envious? You bet. And to make matters worse the locals can bask in the glory of a series win again England whatever happens in the third test.
The good news for England however, is that the home side’s captain Jason Holder – a man who has bowled like a demon and batted like a dream in this series – won’t be playing this week. The ICC have banned him for the Windies’ slow overrate in Antigua. Harsh? Perhaps. It’s not like the slow overrate made the second test any less captivating. But then again slow overrates are indisputably a problem in cricket. The authorities do need to crack down occasionally.
Holder’s absence actually gives England a fighting chance. Perhaps this is why, pretty surprisingly in my opinion, the tourists are slight favourites. Check out www.signupbonuses.co.uk if you fancy a flutter. Although the first two tests suggest that we could be on the receiving end of yet another humiliation in St Lucia, it seems that the bookies disagree. Maybe they think the hosts will relax now the series is in the bag?
Much will depend on the pitch, of course. If it’s anything like the ones in Barbados and Antigua then England could have a problem. Thus far our batsmen have been exposed like a politician photographed in a compromising position with his secretary. If the pitch suits tall fast bowlers again then the home team will have a mighty advantage.
England will surely need to consider team changes yet again. Woakes or Wood for Curran could make the most sense; or possibly Leach for Curran if it looks like it might turn later in the game. Unfortunately, however, there aren’t many options when it comes to the batting line-up.
Recalling Keaton Jennings is the only alternative from within the squad. And that will be about as popular as ‘gammon’ in the Gina Miller household. So it looks like Bayliss and Co will have to put their faith in the same top 6 that’s struggled so badly in recent times. Oh how the team needs Joe Root to put a century on the board. I doubt anyone else is going to manage it.
One senses this is quite an important test match for England. A 0-3 blackwash would be a real setback. After this test there is only one more match (a one-off test against Ireland) before the Ashes begins in August. And one imagines that Australia will put out quite strong team if Smith and Warner and back in the side and fully rehabilitated. For the first time in a long time I actually quite fancy the Aussies to win over here if our recent struggles against pace are anything to go by.
However, if England can dominate this final test in the Caribbean and register a morale boosting consolation victory then the spin-doctors can pretend it wasn’t such as disastrous tour after all. They’ll claim we were slow starters due to a lack of preparation rather than a lack of skill and application. The fact England have organised identical preparation (two pathetic two-day practices) for our next tour to New Zealand will probably get ignored #ecbclowns.
So what do you think will happen in St Lucia? I’m going to stick my next out and say that England will win. I can offer nothing based in fact to support this assertion so I’ll just call it wishful thinking. After all, if we were to lose 0-3 against the 8th ranked nation in the world – a team that has only beaten a major nation at home once since 2010 – we might as well just pack in test cricket completely and be honest about it.
In my opinion a 0-3 defeat would be England’s worst series result this decade. Yes the whitewashes down under were pretty bad, but at least we lost to relatively powerful team. There really is no excuse for losing so heavily to Jason Holder’s team no matter how admirably they’ve performed.
Much as I’d like to imagine that the West Indies are a team on the up – they’ve certainly got the best pace attack they’ve had in a while – those islands are so beset by political problems that one suspects this triumph will be an aberration. I sincerely hope I’m wrong, as it would be great for world cricket if the Windies re-established themselves as a dominant team, but sadly I won’t believe it until I see it.
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