Buoyant West Indies eye England Test series win
07 Sep 2017 - 1:34
London: West Indies go into today’s third and deciding Test at Lord’s with the chance to complete a dramatic turnaround and win their first series in England in almost 30 years.
The Caribbean side last triumphed in England in 1988 when a team boasting a clutch of all-time greats including Gordon Greenidge, Viv Richards, Malcolm Marshall and Curtly Ambrose romped to a 4-0 win.
The West Indies dominated Test cricket for two decades but their decline has been precipitous and they are currently languishing at eighth in the world rankings, with just Bangladesh and Zimbabwe below them.
Having dusted down the “obituaries” after the series opener at Edgbaston -- when the visitors slumped to a defeat by an innings and 209 runs -- few pundits gave Jason Holder’s novice West Indies side any chance of a revival in Leeds.
Yet despite being set more than 300 to win in the fourth innings following a declaration by England captain Joe Root, the tourists showed true grit to win by five wickets.
Shai Hope became the first batsman in history to score hundreds in both innings of a match at Headingley, putting his side in a strong position with 147 before following up his maiden Test century with a match-clinching 118 not out in the second innings.
After the fourth day of a match of fluctuating fortunes, ex-England captain Nasser Hussain, a former Essex team-mate of West Indies coach Stuart Law, said the tourists were flagging because the physical demands of a Test match were greater than that of Twenty20 cricket.
A satisfied Law said: “People make assumptions all the time.”
“But he (Hussain) doesn’t know the characters that are inside that dressing room -- he doesn’t even know me and I played with him at Essex,” the former Australia batsman added.
“Not a lot of these players play T20 cricket anyway. I think it was great we sent a big humble pie to go and chomp on in the commentary box.”
England even took the risk of dropping in-form seamer Toby Roland-Jones, whose three Tests this season have yielded 14 wickets, for the Headingley Test, bringing in Chris Woakes for his first Test of the home campaign after injury, seemingly to get some overs under his belt ahead of the upcoming Ashes tour of Australia.
The home side, however, have recalled Roland-Jones on his Middlesex home ground and dropped Woakes in the only change to their side. “Home conditions, he (Roland-Jones) obviously knows the surfaces and is bowling very well at the moment,” Root told reporters at Lord’s yesterday after announcing his team.
“It’s obviously very difficult to leave somebody like Chris out, he’s been a consistent performer in Test cricket for England.
“But this is a team I think is going to win this week,” star batsman Root added.
England still have doubts about their problem top-order batting positions with number three Tom Westley under most scrutiny after a run of single-figure scores.
“That extra pressure will find out a bit more about people’s character and things like that so it should be an exciting week,” said England spearhead James Anderson.
Having gone wicketless on the last day in Leeds, Anderson arrives at Lord’s still three away from becoming the first England bowler to take 500 Test wickets.
“To be honest, I do try to put it to the back of my mind,” Anderson said.
“We desperately need to win this Test match to win the series so I’m going to be focused completely on doing my job for the team when we get out there.”