The series showdown nobody saw coming

Was Woakes rushed back? (2:41)

George Dobell asks whether England selected Woakes too soon after injury after he was dropped in favour of Toby Roland-Jones at Lord's. (2:41)

Big Picture

Opinion is divided as to whether West Indies' victory in the second Test at Headingley is the greatest comeback from the dead since Lazarus, or merely the most astonishing turnaround in fortunes in Test history. From the depths of ignominy at Edgbaston - beaten by an innings and 209, having lost 19 wickets in a single miserable day - to the heights of adulation a week later, West Indies have breathed new life into a series that many had quietly feared was heading for a sad September denouement.

Should we have seen it coming? Well, yes, up to a point. Since their tour of the Caribbean in April 2015 (where they once again came a cropper to surrender a series lead), England have earned an unwanted reputation for being the most erratic Test team in the world game. They have won 16 and lost 16 of their 37 matches in that time, with last week's reversal at Headingley bringing an abrupt end to a heady run of three consecutive wins since their last Test towelling, against South Africa at Trent Bridge in July.

But even if you accept that England are not yet a particularly good Test team (for all that they possess a surfeit of champion performers), there is really no legislating for the events that transpired in Leeds. The chat around the press box in the aftermath of a truly dispiriting display at Edgbaston was this West Indies team was the worst ever to visit England's shores - and that was a verdict being uttered not with malice but with sorrow … How the mighty had fallen, and all the rest of it. It ignored the fact that West Indies had actually won their previous overseas engagement, against Pakistan in Sharjah last October, but aside from some spirit with the ball from Kemar Roach, and a pair of decent cameos from Jermaine Blackwood and Kraigg Brathwaite, there simply did not appear to be any "positives" for the team to build on as they went off to lick their wounds in the interim.

A comparable renaissance, and one that still resonates in the Test annals, would be that achieved by England's cricketers against West Indies on their tour of the Caribbean in 1993-94, when they bounced back from humiliation at the hands of Curtly Ambrose (46 all out and all that) to pull off a stunning 208-run win in Barbados, courtesy of Alec Stewart's twin hundreds and Angus Fraser's 8 for 75.

That match, however, came with the series already plucked from England's grasp. This win has the potential to herald one of the great series turnarounds if West Indies can back up their sterling efforts with at least an equal performance. It is a big 'if' - the bookmakers are fairly confident that England will come back with a bang in this match, while it may be asking too much to expect Shai Hope and Brathwaite to challenge perfection once again - but in the field at least, there are clearly opportunities for West Indies to raise their game. Rarely can a team have dropped as many as seven clear-cut chances and not dropped the match as a consequence.

England will be smarting after such a remarkable loss. Their performance from start to finish was a tapestry of half-baked efforts, allied to flashes of genuine resurgence, that got the result it deserved, if not in the manner they might have imagined. Ben Stokes' century in the first innings, and Moeen Ali's counterattacking 84 in the second, were arguably their best moments of the match, but both performances came after those now-familiar top-order traumas. And with the ball, England's breadth of options didn't translate into depth of intent, with Stokes under-bowled, Chris Woakes under-cooked, and Stuart Broad underwhelming in the first innings, albeit he deserved better in the second.

England can, therefore, be expected to raise their game. Can West Indies find it in themselves to respond in kind? If the incentives offered by the grand venue, the series situation and the confidence in their camp are not enough, one further factor might well be worth bearing in mind as the decider progresses. With the Caribbean braced for the impact of Hurricane Irma, one of the largest and potentially most devastating storms ever to threaten the region, the desire to rally round West Indies could well be redoubled among Jason Holder's men in the coming days. Sport understandably takes a back seat at such moments, but as Brian Lara's team showed in 2004, when they won the Champions Trophy final against England at The Oval against the backdrop of Hurricane Ivan, it can also provide welcome relief.

Form guide

England LWWWL (last five matches, most recent first)
West Indies WLLWL

In the spotlight

Hope springs eternal in the islands of the Caribbean. Shai Hope, to be precise, whose monolithic performances in both innings at Headingley will stand the test of time, no matter what transpires in the coming days at Lord's. He came into the contest with a Test average of 18, but performed with a poise that belied his age and reputation, as well as his limp dismissals in the Edgbaston defeat. His sidekick in two immense stands, Brathwaite, was no less a factor in West Indies' victory, but his batting style is not one which seeks out the limelight. Hope, on the other hand, was formidable in attack and defence alike, and even displayed shades of a right-handed Brian Lara in the purity and intent of his cover-driving. He cannot expect to pull off such feats in every innings, of course, but what a statement performance

England put the 'ass' into 'assume' when they allowed their thoughts at Headingley to drift beyond the contest at hand and off towards their winter engagements in Australia. But nevertheless, there is no escaping the tractor beam of Ashes selection, and the influence that it may have on the players who have yet to present compelling cases for their plane tickets. And, with that in mind, following useful if inconclusive fifties from Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan in the second Test, Tom Westley knows it has to be his turn to cough up an innings of substance. It's been a curious baptism for Westley to date. He certainly looks the part - he has poise at the crease and seemed, during his debut half-century against South Africa, to have that indefinable ability to draw the drama from any given scoreline. But he comes into this game with four single-figure scores in a row, including a horrid slash to be caught behind in the second innings at Headingley.

Teams news

England, as has been fairly standard this summer, have made an early call on their XI for the series decider, with Toby Roland-Jones recalled on his home ground in place of Woakes, who seemed a touch off the pace in his return to the team after a side strain in June, albeit he batted with his usual poise in making a declaration-accelerating half-century from No. 9. That means no place for the legspinner, Mason Crane, whom England might well have wanted to blood ahead of the Ashes had the contest been a dead-rubber.

England: 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Mark Stoneman, 3 Tom Westley, 4 Joe Root (capt), 5 Dawid Malan, 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 8 Moeen Ali, 9 Toby Roland-Jones, 10 Stuart Broad 11 James Anderson

No great reason for wholesale changes from West Indies after such a famous win although, having treated their own leggie, Devendra Bishoo, like a leper at Headingley, it would be a surprise to see him selected ahead of an extra quick. Miguel Cummins, who was unavailable for the second Test through illness, and Alzarri Joseph - talented but erratic at Edgbaston - are on standby.

West Indies: (possible) 1 Kraigg Brathwaite, 2 Kieran Powell, 3 Kyle Hope, 4 Shai Hope, 5 Roston Chase, 6 Jermaine Blackwood, 7 Shane Dowrich (wk), 8 Jason Holder (capt), 9 Kemar Roach, 10 Miguel Cummins/Alzarri Joseph, 11 Shannon Gabriel

Pitch and conditions

Lord's, in its drainage-system era, has become a venue that offers little in the way of surface moisture and nothing beyond conventional carry for its quick bowlers, although it remains a ground where the overhead conditions can influence the sideways movement of the ball. And with that in mind, the forecast for the coming week is a tantalising autumnal mishmash of cloud, rain … and cloud and rain. There will be runs on offer, and lots of them, but they may have to be hard earned. That said, the proliferation of a fungal growth on the square, apparent in the South Africa Test but more apparent now, has caused some consternation in the build-up, including a prominent "fairy ring" on a good length. It is unknown whether such fairy rings have magical properties for seam and swing bowlers.

Stats and trivia


"Credit to the West Indies they played very well last week, but we're a strong side and we've shown over the course of this summer and in the past that we've been able to come back from difficult weeks and this is another opportunity for us to show good character and do just that."
Joe Root backs his side's bouncebackability

"Nasser's entitled to his opinion: people make assumptions all the time. But he doesn't know the group of players. I think it was great we sent a big humble pie to go and chomp on in the commentary box."
Stuart Law, West Indies' coach, hits back at Nasser Hussain's comments about his players' stamina