It was only last Monday that England completed their victory against the West Indies at Nottingham inside four days, but it seems blooming ages ago to us. The brouhaha about Kevin Pietersen, another round of County Championship matches and several Pro40 matches have vied for our cricketing attention and battled with a few minor events in London for column inches.
The final Test in this early summer series takes place at Edgbaston, a ground which usually sees results unless it rains. Which is a pity, because the weather forecast for the first three days of the Test is ruddy bloody awful.
As you may have heard, James Anderson has been rested for this match. It remains to be seen which three bowlers England select, with Graham Onions looking to us likely to play – not least due to his 11 wickets in the latest Championship match. Steven Finn deserves to play for England again sooner rather than later and it would be rather unfair to him if Onions did overtake him now, hence it is a compelling argument to shove Stuart Broad aside to accomodate both. Maybe Broad and Anderson could go visit Cadbury World or something.
Otherwise, England know their side. Jonny Bairstow’s performances thus far warrant his spot in the side for this match (and unless five bowlers are picked, there’s no-one else in the squad to choose from), but a substantial score may be required if his place in the team for the South Africa series is to be secured.
By way of a late update, Steven Davies has been called up to the squad on standby, because Matt Prior has an eye infection. This suggests that Bairstow is not yet considered to be a Test-class wicket-keeper. As much as we love Prior at 51allout HQ, it would be interesting to see how Davies plays.
Heavy rain over Leicester affected the West Indies tour match so that only 50 overs were possible. This won’t have helped them decide on their team for Edgbaston, with problems throughout the side.
Starting with the bowlers, Kemar Roach is injured, with Sunil Narine called up in his stead. The vibes about Narine are positive, following a good IPL campaign and impressive start to his ODI career. He has yet to debut in Tests, but his first-class average of 11.88 from six matches suggests he has some talent. England batsmen may note that the word ‘mystery’ is often used in the same sentence as ‘spinner’ when describing him. Assuming the West Indies continue with four mainline bowlers (or rather three plus Sammy), it seems as if Narine will be competing against Shane Shillingford, Fidel Edwards and Tino Best for two bowling spots, with Ravi Rampaul spearheading the attack.
Which leaves us with the batting. All of the top four would be under enormous pressure in other circumstances, but there are not the options in the squad to make substantial changes. Therefore, we suspect Adrian Barath, Kieran Powell and Darren Bravo will be retained, all having at least reached double figures (wow!) at least twice. Surely though, Kirk Edwards must be dropped. On the tour, he has scored just 20 runs in eight pathetic innings. A temporary solution could be to shift Shiv Chanderpaul and Marlon Samuels up the order, but Assad Fudadin and Narsingh Deonarine have batted just one innings between them on the tour. The latter has at least three Test half-centuries under his belt and the ability to bowl off-breaks, which may count in his favour.
In a nutshell West Indies don’t look capable of taking 20 wickets or scoring enough runs at the top of the order. Therefore England’s main opposition will be the weather.