England believe they can win again
At last, after 31 years, England believe they can do it again and beat the West Indies in a Test series. English teamwork has so far triumphed over West Indian individual flair to the tune of two victories to one, and there is a buzz of excitement at the ground as both team and public believe England can win again this time.
There are two men, though, who in their own quiet way are capable of shattering that confidence and England's dream of a series victory. Veteran pacemen Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh, still bowlers of genuine world class in their late thirties. Ambrose has declared that he will retire after this Test match, and there's been much speculation that Walsh may also quit after this series. All their pride and experience will insist that they cannot afford to go out defeated. They will test the confidence of England' s batsmen to the full.
Their own batsmen could frustrate their best efforts, however. The intermittent genius of Brian Lara could upset any match, while Jimmy Adams is a dogged fighter, but the batting as a whole has proved very fragile in face of an England attack that has the depth lacked by the West Indians. When England are batting, it is a very different ball game when Ambrose and Walsh are off, but the four-pronged England battery gives the West Indians little respite.
England did call up all-rounder Ashley Giles to give them a spin-bowling option on the Oval pitch, but in the end left him out and stuck to the team that won by an innings in two days at Headingley. West Indies brought in leg-spinner Mahendra Nagamootoo in place of Reon King, but Adams caused a surprise by putting England in to bat in sunny but unpredictable weather. Hussain then said that had England won the toss, they would 'probably have batted', as had been widely believed. The first hour will be critical for England as they face Ambrose and Walsh.
The teams are as follows:
England: Mike Atherton, Marcus Trescothick, Nasser Hussain (capt), Graham Thorpe, Alec Stewart, Michael Vaughan, Graeme Hick, Craig White, Dominic Cork, Andy Caddick, Darren Gough.
West Indies: Sherwin Campbell, Adrian Griffith, Wavell Hinds, Brian Lara, Jimmy Adams (capt), Ramnaresh Sarwan, Ridley Jacobs, Mahendra Nagamootoo, Curtly Ambrose, Nixon McLean, Courtney Walsh.