England are on an upward curve after their final day surge to victory in the second Test and will now look to close out the series for a satisfying victory. After a terrible winter, a series win would be most welcome indeed. Several personnel were in need of a positive result in this series and barring a complete reversal in fortunes – England have dominated most sessions – those under pressure should be able to head home with a little more slack to work with ahead of two tough series against New Zealand and Australia.
But they may be without Ben Stokes for the final rubber. Stokes, who has taken five wickets and scored 122 runs in three innings this series, has a sore back and could miss out as he returns to the ground where he punched a locker on England’s last visit in 2014, breaking a hand and missing the World T20.
One of those in need of a positive series result is Alastair Cook, who is steadily rebuilding his mandate to rule. Most commentators have observed an improvement in his batting, with the cover drive coming back into his game and more discipline outside off. Two pleasing half-centuries in Grenada boosted his stock further and if he can manage a century in Barbados, any question of his position will surely be put to bed for the summer. Likewise Peter Moores is on the cusp of a series win to shore up his own position but uncertainty will still remain with the restructuring of England’s management ongoing.
The recruitment progress to replace former managing director of England cricket Paul Downton has reportedly moved forward since the Grenada Test but Paul Farbrace, England’s assistant coach who was hired by Downton, has insisted England will not be distracted by the prospect of a former captain entering the fray as Downton’s replacement.
West Indies rather reverted to type in the second Test. Having battled well, often in the worst of the conditions, to begin day five in sight of another well-earned draw, the lack of composure that blighted them in South Africa returned. Ridding the side of that tendency is Phil Simmons’s biggest challenge. But elsewhere there is encouragement with younger players showing much potential. If West Indies can at least make life difficult for England once again, Simmons would have a number of ticks in the notebook as he looks to revive Caribbean cricket.
West Indies WDLDL (most recent first)
In the spotlight
Some pressure has emerged on Chris Jordan who could lose his place in the side. England’s bowling attack is considered too similar and with Ben Stokes a more attractive option with his all-round ability and several sharp spells in the series so far, Jordan may be vulnerable. But if Stokes is unfit, Jordan may be retained. Jordan needs to prove his worth in England’s attack after five wickets at 45.60 in the series. His superb fielding remains a great asset.
Shivnarine Chanderpaul has only passed fifty once in his last nine Test innings and questions are beginning to be asked about the stickability of the famous barnacle of the Caribbean. West Indies have missed his lower-order runs and, even as he edges (very slowly on current form) towards Brian Lara’s West Indies Test runs record, Chanderpaul needs a score to prove that he still has a part to play in West Indies’ rebuilding.
Jerome Taylor is expected to return, Kemar Roach is likely to make way after five wickets at 53 in the series so far. West Indies played two spinners at this ground in their last Test but have not brought Sulieman Benn back into their squad. Instead they have brought in Veerasammy Permaul, also a left-armer, and he may play because Devendra Bishoo has cut his spinning finger from over-bowling.
West Indies (possible) 1 Kraigg Brathwaite, 2 Devon Smith, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 6 Jermaine Blackwood, 7 Denesh Ramdin (capt/wk), 8 Jason Holder, 9 Jerome Taylor, 10 Shannon Gabriel, 11 Veerasammy Permaul
Ben Stokes has a sore back and could miss out. Liam Plunkett or Mark Wood could add pace to the attack, while Adil Rashid, the legspinning allrounder, could be considered having been prevented from returning to county cricket. Stuart Broad’s place may also be vulnerable. Ian Bell hurt a finger and didn’t train the day before the game but is expected to play. After only one convincing innings from four knocks, England could decide that their decision to recall Jonathan Trott was hasty and hand Adam Lyth, the specialist opener, a Test debut.
England (possible): 1 Alastair Cook (capt), 2 Jonathan Trott, 3 Gary Ballance, 4 Ian Bell, 5 Joe Root, 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Jos Buttler (wkt), 8 Adil Rashid, 9 Chris Jordan, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson.
Pitch and conditions
The tour returns to a traditional venue and the wicket in Bridgetown is anticipated to provide a bit more pace and bounce, which is good news for everybody. It is also a little drier so spin could play more of a part than the previous Tests of this series. In short, we might have a more sporting wicket. A good crowd is anticipated for the first day with it being a public holiday. The Brits have flocked over too.
Stats and trivia
There have been 99 Test centuries at the Kensington Oval
England have a fair record in Barbados, winning three and drawing seven of their 14 Tests on the island
Shivnarine Chanderpaul made his first Test century at the Kensington Oval, 137 against India in 1997
Chanderpaul needs 71 runs to pass Brian Lara as West Indies’ leading Test run-scorer
“We need to come hard at the English. We are one down, so we need to play a little more aggressive and positive cricket.”
West Indies captain Denesh Ramdin sets out his side’s tactics for the final Test.
“The normal inclination is to go with the same team because you like to give people the confidence that they are not always playing for their place. You get stability when you’re winning and everyone knows their role in the team.”
Alastair Cook, the England captain, perhaps hints at his side’s selection for the third Test.