Time: March 8, 7:30 PM IST
Venue: Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, North Sound, Antigua
Both Tests ended in a draw at the North Sound when the West Indies locked horns with Sri Lanka last December. A day before the first Test, the pitch looked good for batting with a thin film of grass sitting nicely on it. However, the wickets in the Caribbean do not suffer wear and tear often. The pacers will have something to cheer for.
The talented Jayden Seales will play at the expense of the injured Shannon Gabriel.
Probable XI for West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite (c), John Campbell, Nkrumah Bonner, Jermaine Blackwood, Kyle Mayers, Jason Holder, Joshua Da Silva (wk), Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph, Jayden Seales, Veerasammy Permaul
England have already announced a 12-man squad. Whether they hand a debut to Saqib Mahmood or play a spinner in Jack Leach, is something they will decide on the morning of the game.
Probable XI for England: Alex Lees, Zak Crawley, Joe Root (c), Dan Lawrence, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Ben Foakes (wk), Chris Woakes, Craig Overton, Mark Wood, Jack Leach/Saqib Mahmood
We have opted for a fantasy cricket team based on the recent performances, overall impact, and credit points.
Jason Holder scored a magnificent double-century and took 7 wickets in 2 Tests in the home series in 2019. For that matter, two of his three hundreds have come against England. With the ball, he averages 30 and has the best match figures of 7 for 91. He’s the No. 1 all-rounder in the ICC Test Rankings for a reason.
Joe Root looked fluent with the bat in The Ashes but lacked consistency. He lived by the reputation of failing to convert his swift starts into impactful innings. That being said, he has excellent numbers against the West Indies. He averages a whopping 55 in 11 Tests.
Ben Stokes may not be at his absolute best, but he was England’s star player in the 2019 series. He scored 186 runs and scalped 10 wickets in 3 Tests.
Kemar Roach has taken 50 wickets in a mere 13 Tests against England. He has a brilliant overall record at home, sniping up 159 wickets at 22.
Ever since the Boxing Day Test, Jonny Bairstow has been displaying controlled aggression. He followed it up with a resilient hundred at Sydney, and last week in the warm-up game, smashed an unbeaten 106.
Alzarri Joseph is now a known performer in fantasy sports. He performed well in the ODIs against India lately and has a good home record. There’s another bowler in the mix that is likely to be a surprise pick, Jayden Seales, who has already claimed 16 wickets in a mere 4 Tests. The West Indies pace quartet is a force to reckon with.
Luckily for the West Indies, Kraigg Brathwaite and Kyle Mayers struck form against Sri Lanka, both averaging over 50. Meanwhile, Jermaine Blackwood enjoys hunting down the English bowlers: he has scored four fifties and a hundred in 9 Tests.
In the absence of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, the likes of Chris Woakes and Mark Wood will have to up their ante. While Woakes has an ordinary record outside England, Wood struggles with consistency.
The last time England won a Test series in the West Indies was in 2004 – the same core that won The Ashes in 2005. Since then, they have drawn one and lost two. In Antigua, they haven’t won in 31 years. Worse still, they have lost three consecutive away series. On the other hand, the West Indies haven’t been doing great lately either, winning only once in the last eight Tests.
If anything, the West Indies have the home and history advantage and England meanwhile will aim to regain their lost mojo.