West Indies pick up the pieces
Home support was supposed to be the deciding factor to tilt this series in West Indies's favour. However, it could turn out to have the opposite effect when the second Test gets underway in Trinidad on Friday.
To say West Indies's capitulation in the first Test was taken badly would be a gross understatement. The team were branded a disgrace and a joke. There was even a feature on the Jamaican news questioning whether supporters should boycott the rest of the series in protest. And then there were the Bad Boy Four performing on the Mound Stand not long after they had been given a good licking, as the locals would say.
It's not often that a board has to issue a public apology after a heavy defeat, even one as thumping as at Sabina Park, and huge pressure is ever mounting on Brian Lara and his boys to kiss and make up with the public - starting with his adoring Trini Posse - if they are to feel as if there's no place like home again.
Their preparation hasn't been helped by Fidel Edwards's back strain, which will keep him out of this Test at least. In his place, the selectors have gone for the next-best thing: Pedro Collins, Edwards's half-brother. Collins last played in the Trinidad Test against Australia a year ago, but was dropped afterwards. However, he was the natural choice to replace Edwards after finishing top of the domestic averages with 37 wickets at 18.45 for Barbados in the Carib Beer Championship. A local newspaper also commented that he has "developed a mean inswinging delivery that deceived many batsmen this season". Duncan Fletcher take note.
Lara is still feeling the effects of his dislocated finger but had a light net session on Wednesday morning, while Dwayne Smith has recovered from his finger injury. Even though Ryan Hinds is expected to keep his place ahead of Smith after his battling 84 in the first Test, Smith was ordered to practice his part-time medium-pace bowling at today's net session, so there may be another way back in for him.
England, for once on the early stages of a tour, are shipshape. After an extra day off to rest and recover from some permitted partying in Kingston, they are relaxed, refreshed and raring to go again. With no injury worries, they are almost certain to go in with the same line-up as in Jamaica, but Fletcher was keen to play things down. "It's very important that we look after our own game and prepare for the next Test," he stressed. "If we start focusing on other things, we'll probably forget about what we've got to do."
One thing Fletcher should take note of, though, is that five years ago, Lara inspired West Indies to a memorable victory against Australia after they had been bowled out for 51 - their then lowest-ever total - in the previous Test. And although England don't have that bad a record in Trinidad, this is the place where Curtly Ambrose blew them away for 46 in 1993-94 - a day which Graham Thorpe remembers all too well. "It was the most humiliated I've ever been on a cricket field," he said. "We knew we were up against a great bowler, and we didn't really have the answers." But he added: "We came back and won in Barbados, so we're well aware West Indies are not a pushover, we have to expect them to bounce back."
The talk is that the Port-of-Spain pitch is expected to be its usual low and slow self, as it was this time last year when West Indies and Australia helped themselves to a whopping 1510 runs in the match. However, in the two back-to-back Tests England played here in 1998, both games were low-scoring nail-biters. If Jamaica is anything to go by, then expect the unexpected.
West Indies 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Devon Smith, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Brian Lara (capt), 5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 6 Ryan Hinds, 7 Ridley Jacobs (wk), 8 Adam Sanford, 9 Corey Collymore, 10 Tino Best, 11 Pedro Collins.
England 1 Michael Vaughan (capt), 2 Marcus Trescothick, 3 Mark Butcher, 4 Nasser Hussain, 5 Graham Thorpe, 6 Andrew Flintoff, 7 Chris Read (wk), 8 Ashley Giles, 9 Steve Harmison, 10 Simon Jones, 11 Matthew Hoggard.
Freddie Auld, Wisden Cricinfo's assistant editor, will be following England's fortunes during the Trinidad Test.