England still confident of levelling series

Just missing out on beating West Indies in Antigua has convinced England it can produce a series-leveling victory in the fourth Test at Kensington Oval.

updated: February 26, 2009 08:09 IST
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Bridgetown, Barbados:

Just missing out on beating West Indies in Antigua has convinced England it can produce a series-leveling victory in the fourth Test at Kensington Oval from Thursday.

West Indies remains 1-0 up following its opening win in Jamaica and two contrasting draws in Antigua, with the second Test being abandoned due to the state of the outfield and the third providing a thrilling finale in which the home team hung on to its last wicket to avoid defeat.

West Indies came away from that draw feeling like it had won but England's morale has risen, despite the forced absences of Andrew Flintoff and Matt Prior.

"I think we showed in Antigua that we're capable of putting the West Indian team under pressure," England captain Andrew Strauss said on Wednesday. "We just need to go that step further this week.

"We're certainly hopeful that the momentum of this series is changed and we can continue putting those guys under pressure in the first half of this Test match." But, he added, "I don't think we underestimate the size of the challenge ahead of us."

West Indies counterpart Chris Gayle was keen for his teammates to forget the Antigua Tests as it chases a long-awaited series victory.

West Indies has not won a series at home since beating Bangladesh in 2004, and the Caribbean side last defeated England in a series, home or away, in 1998.

"After the first game, we picked up that momentum and then after we went to the Sir Viv Stadium, that actually changed things after that disaster there," Gayle said. "The change of venues kind of put us on the back foot there. It was a disadvantage for us and it was hard to actually get that mind-set going again.

"We're looking past those two (Antigua) games now. I'm sure this time around, we'll come out running. We know how important this game is. It's an opportunity for us to actually try and build on this and not give in to England as much as possible."

West Indies seems set to play the same team that appeared in Antigua but England has suffered the loss of allrounder Flintoff, ruled out by a hip injury.

"I think it's a big loss to them. He's a key player," Gayle said. "The stats might not show it in the last two games; he hasn't really got among the runs or got a lot of wickets.

"But we know how important 'Freddie' Flintoff is for England. I'm sure he'll be missed, especially in the bowling department."

Strauss hopes the absence of Flintoff and Prior, who returned home for the birth of his first child, fires up the rest of the team.

"If you rest all your hopes on one man (Flintoff), sometimes the rest of the team don't take the responsibility they need to take," Strauss said. "We found when he hasn't played before the bowlers have stood up and performed and the batting unit has performed pretty well as well.

"Clearly, we'd love him in the side but that's not the situation at the moment. I don't think that affects our chances of winning. I still think we have a very good chance of winning."

An overwhelming English presence in the stands will also lift the tourists, a fact not lost on Gayle.

"We can look at it like if we're playing at Lord's," he said. "It's just like the last time we played here, it was a similar thing, totally English fans and we saw a similar thing in Antigua as well."


West Indies: Chris Gayle (captain), Devon Smith, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Ryan Hinds, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Brendan Nash, Denesh Ramdin, Jerome Taylor, Sulieman Benn, Daren Powell, Fidel Edwards, Lionel Baker, Lendl Simmons.

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