Chanderpaul winning fitness battle
West Indies' cricketers have an opportunity to finish their tour of England on a high on Saturday, when the third and final one-day international gets underway at Trent Bridge. The series is locked at 1-1, but it is West Indies who have the momentum, thanks to their emphatic 61-run in Wednesday's second match at Edgbaston.
Their hopes of completing a stirring comeback in the series, however, rest on the fitness of their stand-out player, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, whose matchwinning 116 not out on Wednesday was made in spite of an ankle ligament injury. David Moore, West Indies' coach, however, was optimistic that he would be fit for the final contest of the tour.
"The physios have worked very hard on Shiv's injury over the last couple of days," said Moore. "He is having a hit in the nets later today so we are very hopeful that he will be right for tomorrow. We are very keen to have him play. It has been very advantageous for us to have Shiv playing in the role that he has played."
Chanderpaul has been immense all summer. He scored 446 runs at 148.66 in the Tests, despite missing the Headingley defeat because of a knee injury, and prior to Wednesday's century he made 53 not out in the first ODI at Lord's. He has only once failed to reach a half-century in eight international innings - and even that was a blistering 41 from 26 balls in the first Twenty20 at The Oval.
"I've spent most of the summer looking at the back of his bat," said England's wicketkeeper, Matt Prior. "He's a fantastic player and he's showed that time and again in the past few weeks. You must take your hat off to him. He wants to bat and bat, and he never gets bored with batting and scoring runs. He's having one of those purple patches that the top players go through."
The Edgbaston match was marred by some "feisty" behaviour from the two teams, with James Anderson losing half of his match fee after clashing shoulders with Runako Morton. But Prior admitted that no amount of sledging would be able to unsettle Chanderpaul, who has progressed serenely through every challenge that has faced him all summer.
"His concentration seems unbreakable and he's just so stubborn," said Prior. "I don't think any vocals from me from behind the stumps are going to affect him. I don't think I can get into his head, he's unflappable. All we can do is to continue working on our plans. We have plans when we bowl to him but sometimes you must allow for someone playing well."
West Indies' captain, Chris Gayle - who has been at loggerheads with the board throughout the one-day series - Saturday's encounter is a massive opportunity for his young side. "This tour has been a big learning curve," he said. "In the future the players may tour again, and the same situations they have had to confront on this tour may occur again.
"We wanted to regain our pride after the Test series, and it will be tremendous for us to win the one-day series - especially after losing the first game," added Gayle. "Everything came together in all departments in that game [at Edgbaston]. That is what I asked for from the boys. I said to them: 'We can't turn back now; we have to give it our all'. I hope we can put in an even better performance at Trent Bridge."
West Indies have fielded an unchanged side for the two matches so far, and it is unlikely that they will want to tinker, especially given the rhythm that their fast bowlers - spearheaded by Fidel Edwards - have found. England, on the other hand, are expected to recall Monty Panesar, who was controversially omitted in favour of Michael Yardy on Wednesday, in a bid to find some more attacking options in the middle overs.
The key to the match, however, could be the success or failure of Kevin Pietersen, who has had a quiet time since the Tests ended. He made 16 and 19 in the two Twenty20 matches at The Oval, and 33 and 9 in the first two ODIs. But Prior, for one, had no fears about the form of a man who is still rated as the No. 1 batsman in one-day cricket.
"He is a fantastic cricketer, a champion who will become a legend of the game," said Prior. "When he doesn't score runs for a couple of games, people start talking about a crisis. He's hitting the ball brilliantly in the nets and I'm sure he'll score a brilliant hundred very soon - and it might even be on Saturday."
England (probable) 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Matt Prior (wk), 3 Ian Bell, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Paul Collingwood (capt), 6 Owais Shah, 7 Dimitri Mascarenhas, 8 Stuart Broad, 9 Ryan Sidebottom, 10 Monty Panesar, 11 James Anderson.
West Indies (probable) 1 Chris Gayle (capt), 2 Devon Smith, 3 Shiv Chanderpaul, 4 Runako Morton, 5 Marlon Samuels, 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Denish Ramdin (wk), 8 Dwayne Smith, 9 Daren Powell, 10 Ravi Rampaul, 11 Fidel Edwards.