Strauss wants England firing from ball one

Andrew Strauss expects England to be fully focused from the first ball against West Indies in the opening cricket test starting at Sabina Park on Wednesday

updated: February 04, 2009 10:19 IST
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Captain Andrew Strauss expects England to be fully focused from the first ball against West Indies in the opening cricket Test starting at Sabina Park on Wednesday.

"The first Test is crucial and probably the first day of the first Test is crucial as well," Strauss said after England's final training on Tuesday.

"I think probably both teams will be going all guns blazing on that first day. Both teams will have to absorb some pressure and the team that deals with it best will come out on top."

Allrounder Andrew Flintoff, the pivot in England's lineup, was almost certain to play after getting through training unscathed.

"He's come through today's practice pretty well so, at this stage, we've very confident he'll be playing," Strauss said of his injury-plagued talisman, who has fought off a side strain.

Strauss said the drama of the captaincy change and firing of former coach Peter Moores last month was well and truly in the past.

Strauss replaced Kevin Pietersen as skipper in the first week in January after the relationship between Pietersen and Moores soured, and the England and Wales Cricket Board chose to replace both.

"Clearly there's been a lot of work to do over the past couple of weeks just getting the setup in shipshape," he admitted.

"There's been a lot of stuff that's been going on previous to this tour and the players are excited about getting on that pitch and representing their country and playing some good cricket."

History says England will be intense from the first ball. Since West Indies' last win over England in June 2000, of the 16 Tests, England has won 13 and drawn the rest. England has won the last four series and utterly dominated in this decade.

Strauss was also encouraged by the 10-day buildup in St. Kitts, where England won one game and drew the other in its first visit in five years.

"Warmup games serve a pretty good purpose in terms of getting you functioning well," he said. "But the hair on the back of your neck standing up as you walk out to bat on the first day of a Test match ... that's what we all play cricket for."

West Indies skipper Chris Gayle was sure his team was on the improve following its drawn two-Test series in New Zealand last December that lifted the Caribbean side from eighth to seventh in the world rankings.

But the Jamaican was keen to prove this against fifth-ranked England over their four Tests.

"I think this England series will definitely determine where we're heading. (They are) good opponents, better than New Zealand, so the challenges will be there and I'm sure all the guys are looking forward to it.

"The first game is very important. A good start will do well for us."

The host was setback by an injury to opening batsman Dale Richards, who had been expected to make his debut on Wednesday.

The 32-year-old has failed to recover from a blow to his right foot more than a week ago in the regional championship.

"His foot was swollen this morning," coach John Dyson said. "To be honest with you, I'm probably more pessimistic than optimistic about his chances of playing."


West Indies (from): Chris Gayle (captain), Devon Smith, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Xavier Marshall, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Brendan Nash, Denesh Ramdin, Jerome Taylor, Sulieman Benn, Daren Powell, Fidel Edwards, Lionel Baker, Amit Jaggernauth, Dale Richards.

England (from): Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Matt Prior, Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, Steve Harmison, Monty Panesar, James Anderson, Owais Shah, Graeme Swann, Adil Rashid, Tim Ambrose.