Fringe players aim to stake claims
September 23, The Oval
Start time: 6.15pm (1715GMT)
The Big Picture
And so the English season continues, at least for another three days. These two matches against West Indies weren't on the schedule until August when it became clear that TV agreements had to be met, following the collapse of the Stanford deal. So the visitors are making a quick stop in the UK on their way to Dubai and finally Bangladesh.
If you look hard enough there is actually some value to the games other than monetary. The World Twenty20 takes place in Sri Lanka a year from now and international fixtures in the shortest format are few and far between. It's not just spin (well, not all of it anyway) when the players say extra games aren't a bad thing. Meanwhile, ticket sales for the matches have been good, especially considering the time of the year, which suggests the public want to watch a successful England team, regardless of context.
Neither side, however, is at full strength and in West Indies' case they are barely a second-string side. A combination of contractual disputes and the Champions League means a host of new faces in the squad, although Darren Sammy is there as captain while Fidel Edwards, Marlon Samuels and Devendra Bishoo make the trip.
England's plans for the short series have been hampered by injury with both the captain, Stuart Broad, and vice-captain, Eoin Morgan, ruled out which means Graeme Swann becomes the fifth leader of the season and sixth of the year. It does, though, offer a chance to have a look at a few more new players following the success of Jonny Bairstow in the final ODI against India. Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Alex Hales all have an opportunity to impress in these autumn outings. They might just need to wear a few layers of clothing.
Form guide(completed matches, most recent first)
West Indies LWLLL
Jonny Bairstow is the man of the moment following his 21-ball 41 on debut at Cardiff which was followed by glowing assessments from Alastair Cook and Andy Flower. Earlier this week he was named the Cricket Writers' Club Young Player of the Year and is assured of a place on the trip to India next month. It was his calmness, right from the first ball of his innings, that stood out when he strode to the crease against India and he also speaks with maturity. He is adding to the battle for the middle-order slots in the limited-overs teams but his presence will also put pressure on Craig Kieswetter with England well stocked for keeper-batsmen.
Among the host of relatively unknown players in West Indies' squad, Dwayne Smith is a familiar face on these shores following his stints in county cricket. When Smith burst onto the scene with a century on his Test debut against South Africa, at Newlands, an exciting career looked in store but, as with so many West Indian cricketers, he hasn't been able to make the most of his natural talent. There is no doubting, though, that his explosive batting and whippy bowling are perfectly suited to Twenty20. This could be his final chance.
There are a variety of options for England to consider and the squad was clearly picked with an eye on Sri Lanka as it contains four spin options. It's hard to see more than two playing in either match and with Graeme Swann the captain that would mean just one from Samit Patel, Scott Borthwick and Danny Briggs. The openers, Craig Kieswetter and Alex Hales, are likely to get both matches to impress as they try to forge England's latest top-order combination.
England (possible) 1 Craig Kieswetter (wk), 2 Alex Hales, 3 Ravi Bopara, 4 Jonny Bairstow, 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Buttler, 7 Samit Patel, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Graeme Swann (capt), 10 James Anderson, 11 Jade Dernbach
There is a suggestion that Dwayne Smith will open the batting, which will rely heavily on the experience of Marlon Samuels. Garey Mathurin, a late call-up to the squad, could debut on his birthday.
West Indies (possible): 1 Dwayne Smith, 2 Miles Bascombe, 3 Marlon Samuels, 4 Danza Hyatt, 5 Nkruma Bonner, 6 Derwin Christian (wk), 7 Darren Sammy (capt), 8 Andre Russell, 9 Garey Mathurin, 10 Devendra Bishoo, 11 Fidel Edwards
Pitch and conditions
Despite being late season, the pitch won't be a concern at The Oval and the forecast is dry. However, the dew factor will be important and fielding under the lights could be tricky.
Stats and trivia
- England and West Indies have met five times in Twenty20 internationals with West Indies leading the head-to-head 4-1. Three of those games have been at The Oval, with England's only win coming in 2007.
- Jonathan Trott made his international debut during the 2007 series although the two games were his only outings until his first Test against Australia in 2009.
"I feel like a grandad to some of these boys. I've been around the block a few more times than these lads, but it's nice to have that bit of experience under your belt."
Being captain isn't dulling Graeme Swann's sense of humour
"With all due respect to what Stanford did in the Caribbean, I don't think it could be replaced. The interest that was generated during the Stanford Twenty20 was very good for us. I know he's under investigation and stuff, but what transpired as a result of his tournaments, I think it's exposed some players for us."
West Indies' captain, Darren Sammy, misses Sir Allen Stanford's influence in the Caribbean
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo