Every now and then there occurs a moment when the stars seem to align and what would be an otherwise mundane sporting encounter seemingly transcends onto a different plane of significance. When it appears that the whole world stops, holds its collective breath, and watches. Moments such as Frazier vs. Ali, Federer vs. Nadal, or Steve Smith batting for Pune. Unfortunately the final Test of the Frank Worrell series is not one of these occasions. In fact it is probably as far removed from any of those events as Mitchell Johnson is from earning a Test recall.
Still, any Test cricket is worthy of attention, and as seemingly meaningless this contest is, it will probably provide more excitement than watching second rate Australians stink up the IPL.
For the hosts, with any hope of winning the series gone, the final Test comes down to pride and fine-tuning ahead of the tour of England. Whilst there has been talk of numerous changes, Ravi Rampaul for the injured Fidel Edwards looks the only likely one. The emphasis for the West Indians will be on consistency, and that can hardly be achieved through constantly shuffling the lineup each Test.
With the possibility of Chris Gayle returning for the tour of England (although, to be honest, we’ll believe it when we see it), Kraigg Brathwaite will be feeling particularly concerned over his position. Another who needs to impress is Kieron Powell, who failed with scores of 19 and 4 in the second Test. Otherwise expect to see the West Indians once again heavily rely on their middle order trio of Darren Bravo, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Narsingh Deonarine, the last of whom showed in the previous game that he is beginning to settle back into Test cricket again.
With the ball Kemar Roach has once again emerged as the West Indies destroyer in chief, and much will depend on his ability to run through the Australian top order. Shane Shillingford will also be hoping for another strong showing, particularly with Sunil Narine bowling so well in the IPL at the moment. Perhaps not as well as Sourav Ganguly, but that goes without saying really.
For the tourists the third Test represents the last stage of a long, long, summer, and they will be hoping to just get through the game without anyone’s knees exploding (always a concern when Ryan Harris is playing), so they can return home for some sorely needed R & R. That is until they are dragged of for another meaningless ODI series somewhere cold and wet. Both Harris and Mitchell Starc should come into the team, replacing James Pattinson and Peter Siddle who have jetted home early. Michael Beer, who bowled tidily but without any real reward in the second Test, will likely make way, with Australia reverting to their normal three man pace attack.
The tourists will be generally happy with their Test match form thus far, especially after a series of particularly ropey limited overs performances. The bowling has been disciplined, although the new ball bowlers have occasionally been guilty of straying from the length that brought them success at home against India. Nathan Lyon was far improved in the second Test over his showing in the first, which will hopefully mean David Warner will never have to bowl again. Ever.
The batting has been less impressive, however, with only Michael Hussey looking truly at ease. Whilst the vultures seem to be circling Ricky Ponting again, it is the performances of the top order that is the real cause for concern, with their failings exposing the middle order whilst the ball is still relatively new. With the selectors having, as always, one eye on the Ashes next year, it will be hoped that the top order will offer more resistance here. Although considering the scarcity of even half-decent Australian batsmen at the moment, it’s probably too much to expect changes in personnel any time soon.
After closely observing the previous two Tests, 51allout feels safe in predicting that the final Test will feature long, lingering, shots of cheerleaders, heated discussion in the commentary box about local cuisine, and perhaps even some cricket. With the Australian players minds already on the long flight back home to the waiting embrace of their sponsors, an upset looks an outside chance. So we predict they’ll only win by 500 runs or so. And that Darren Sammy will make at least one incredibly stupid decision.