Last chance for England to draw Test series

England will make a desperate bid to win the fifth and final Test against West Indies, starting on Friday at Queen's Park Oval.

updated: March 05, 2009 18:57 IST
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England will make a desperate bid to win the fifth and final Test against West Indies, starting on Friday at Queen's Park Oval, to level the series and keep the Wisden Trophy which symbolises Test supremacy between the two sides.

England trail in the five-Test series 0-1, following an innings and 23-run defeat in the opening Test at Sabina Park in Jamaica, where they were dismissed for their third-lowest total of 51 in the second innings.

The second Test at the Vivian Richards Cricket Ground in Antigua was aborted because of an unsuitable outfield, while the third Test at the Antigua Recreation Ground and the fourth Test at Kensington Oval in Barbados both ended in draws.

England captain Andrew Strauss admitted that now his side's original objective to win the series has been scuttled, they would now have to settle on a share of the series which would allow them to keep the Trophy.

"I don't think we have any real excuses for where we are at the moment, but it would be nice to be on level terms certainly," he said.

"But the way we played in Jamaica wasn't good enough and that's why we are where we are at.

"If you look back to Jamaica we had a terrible session of cricket that cost us the game and since then I think we have played some good cricket and maybe we haven't quite got what we deserved. But we have one more opportunity to level the series."

Strauss' big challenge in the previous two Tests is that England have been unable to bowl West Indies out twice on flat pitches, and he is hoping for a surface that would allow for a far more competitive Test.

"One of the dangers in Test cricket is to play one game like the last," he said. "It would be wrong for us to assume that it would be another flat pitch in Trinidad.

"Hopefully, it won't be, and there would be more in the pitch, and it would be a completely different game of cricket.

"It is important that we do not get caught up with the fact that we are playing on flat pitches and it is impossible to take 20 wickets. Each surface gives you a new opportunity to react to what is there, and taking those wickets."

But Strauss would still need to assemble the kind of bowling arsenal that would be able to bowl England to victory, and playing five frontline bowlers is an option.

This would mean shortening the batting with Owais Shah being the likely target for the drop, and England considering all of the bowling options, particularly recalling Steve Harmison and Monty Panesar, as well as whether to give Danish-born fast-medium bowler Amjad Khan his maiden Test cap.

West Indies just need to draw the last Test to secure their first series win over England for 11 years, but their captain Chris Gayle believes that's a negative approach and will be seeking a victory to formalise the series result.

"Definitely, we are looking for the win," he said.

"We are not going to settle for a draw and play negatively. We still have to play positive cricket. Once you start going out there with a negative mentality, it can sometimes backfire on you.

"We will try to bat well and get the runs on the board. If we can get anything over 400 in the first innings, I am sure that could help put a guarantee on the game, so this is something we will be looking to do.

"Get the runs on the board and put them under pressure, and see if we cannot dictate from there."

For the fourth straight Test, West Indies have had the luxury of selecting an unchanged 13-member squad which suggests that things have started to settle down in their camp, but there are still two places in the final 11 open to question.

Left-handed all-rounder Ryan Hinds has not taken ownership of the No.4 position, and Lendl Simmons, whose form in the domestic first-class championship which is being contested simultaneously with the international series for the first time, may very well make his Test debut on home soil.

And there have been strong calls for the young and raw Lionel Baker to be given a chance ahead of Daren Powell, whose inconsistent fast bowling has often relieved the pressure.

The last 10 Tests at the Queen's Park Oval have all produced outright wins, and fortunately for England, West Indies have been on the wrong side seven times, including twice to the visitors.


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, Ravi Bopara, Stuart Broad, Paul Collingwood, Steve Harmison, Amjad Khan, Monty Panesar, Kevin Pietersen, Adil Rashid, Owais Shah, Ryan Sidebottom, Graeme Swann.

Umpires: Daryl Harper, Russell Tiffin

TV Replays: Aleem Dar

Reserve: Clive Duncan

Match referee: Alan Hurst