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May 5, 2009
Match factsWednesday May 6 - Sunday May 10
Big PictureThese two teams have been apart for barely a month but lock horns again as England's international season makes its earliest ever start. Some players, most notably Chris Gayle, have only just made it back from the IPL as Test cricket struggles to show it still remains a top priority. This short series certainly feels unloved at the moment, as everyone waits for the main action of the summer to begin.
Yet, for England it is a vitally important contest as they search for that elusive momentum to carry forward. They start favourites but it shouldn't be forgotten that they handed back the Wisden Trophy with their 1-0 defeat in the Caribbean. A fresh-looking team will take the field with a new No. 3 and the possibility of two debutant seamers for the first time since 1993 as Andy Flower makes his presence felt. But after the upheavals of the last 12 months England are still playing catch-up as they try to work out their best combination.
West Indies, though, have struggled in the early stages of the tour and head into the Test on the back of a 10-wicket warm-up defeat against England Lions. The batting has been especially unconvincing and it still isn't clear who Gayle will open with. At least in Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards they have two quicks who can seriously trouble England, although they will have to shed some of their sweaters to bowl at full speed.
Form guideEngland DDDDL
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Ravi Bopara is the latest candidate to be thrown into the No. 3 spot and the most exciting option the selectors could have taken. Everyone expected it to be Michael Vaughan, Ian Bell or Owais Shah, but Flower had other ideas. It is a gamble from the selectors as Bopara has rarely batted at three for Essex, but he isn't short on confidence. His previous Test innings was a maiden century in Barbados and, unlike some of his team-mates, he showed form at the IPL. This, though, is a huge challenge for him. Two good Tests and the Australians await.
Stuart Broad has been the least talked about of England's quicks leading up to this Test, but he has a pivotal role to play over the next five days. He was the leading seamer in West Indies, finishing with 15 wickets at 30.58 in tough conditions, but it's his all-round skills that are now being touted. "I see him as an allrounder," Andrew Strauss said and Broad will bat at No. 7 after being promoted there in Trinidad.
Fidel Edwards produced some of the most hostile spells in the recent Caribbean series and was the quickest bowler on either side. He, like Gayle, has been at the IPL so will quickly have to switch from Twenty20 into Test mode. He has become used to bowling on the flat pitches in West Indies, so give him some life in early-season England and he'll be a real handful.
England's only unanswered question is whether to try something different and name two spinners for a May Test. In fact, they haven't played two spinners at home since facing New Zealand, at Old Trafford, in 1999. Given the run of six draws at this ground they need to try something to take 20 wickets, but two twirlers are still unlikely. So it means debuts for Graham Onions (headline writers get ready) and Tim Bresnan with both knowing a good performance will set up their summer.
England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Ravi Bopara, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Matt Prior (wk), 7 Stuart Broad, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Graeme Swann, 10 Graham Onions, 11 James Anderson
Chris Gayle confirmed that Sulieman Benn will start, but other than revealed nothing about his final XI. He hasn't had much time to think about it. In the top order there is the problem of finding someone to partner Gayle with both Devon Smith and Dale Richards out of form. Lendl Simmons has been in the runs, but he was originally picked as a middle order player. In the bowling there are two uncapped quicks in the squad - Andrew Richardson and Nelon Pascal - but the temptation will be to strength the batting with an allrounder. Darren Sammy has played one previous Test in England and took 7 for 66 on debut at Old Trafford so could come into the reckoning.
West Indies (possible) Chris Gayle (capt), Devon Smith, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Lendl Simmons, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Brendan Nash, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Darren Sammy, Jerome Taylor, Sulieman Benn, Fidel Edwards
Umpires: Steve Davis (Australia) and Asoka de Silva (Sri Lanka)
Pitch and conditionsLord's has turned into a batting paradise in recent years and the last six Tests have all been drawn. There is a tinge of green to the latest surface, but that doesn't necessarily mean there will be any more life for the quicks and they don't have a habit of breaking up for the spinners, either. The forecast is promising with Wednesday meant to be cloudy but dry and just a few showers possible on Thursday.
Stats and Trivia
Tickets and travel
There are tickets available for all five days - visit www.lords.org for more information. Meanwhile there are engineering works on the London Underground with the Jubilee Line due to be suspended over the weekend, so no service to St John's Wood station.
Quotes"From our point of view these are two massive Test matches given what happened in West Indies. We want revenge, we want to win back that Wisden Trophy."
"They are under a bit of pressure to do well leading up to the Ashes. We are just trying to stick to the basics and if we can put the pressure on them in that first session, whatever we do, then build on it there's a situation where they might crumble."
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