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March 5, 2009
Match factsFriday March 6 to 10
Big PictureIn a week when off-field events have wrenched cricket into the headlines for all the wrong reasons, England's struggles in the Caribbean have been put into stark context. Nevertheless, they have a series to salvage and one last chance to do so, as the teams move to Trinidad for the fifth and final Test. England entered the series with high hopes of victory, but ever since their humiliating innings defeat in Jamaica last month, they have been playing catch-up to a spirited team of competitors who have found a way to stay one step ahead.
Apart from anything else, England's ability to take 20 wickets in a Test has become a serious issue, with Andrew Flintoff out injured and Steve Harmison struggling to convince the management that he still has an appetite for the fight. Ryan Sidebottom played at Barbados without ever looking close to full fitness, and while Graeme Swann plugged away diligently for his second five-wicket haul in consecutive Tests, his haul of 5 for 165 was stretched across 50.4 overs - a workload which has not aided the elbow injury with which he has been struggling. Most pertinently of all, England have found no way to dislodge Ramnaresh Sarwan, whose incredible tally of 598 runs for the series includes a best of 291 and a worst of 94.
Form guide (most recent first)West Indies DDDWD
Watch out for …Fidel Edwards : The last two Tests have been bat-dominated affairs, but one man alone has possessed the necessary pace and aggression to fight the bowlers' corner. Edwards' first-innings figures of 3 for 151 at Bridgetown were a travesty. He bowled like the wind with the new ball, giving England the serious hurry-up, and only desperate bad luck - and a slew of dropped catches - denied him his rightful haul. If there is anything sporting in the wicket at Port-of-Spain, he is in the form to get his belated rewards.
Alastair Cook : With scores of 94 and 139 not out, Cook gave an indication that he is getting back into the zone after an awkward year in which his technique has let him down badly. He will never look the most elegant of openers, but by finally ending his 14-month run without a Test century - and in the process becoming the youngest England batsman to reach 3000 Test runs - he has overcome a significant mental hurdle.
Team newsDespite the toothlessness of England's Barbados attack, there will be no immediate reprieve for Harmison, who has pitched his tent in the dog-house for the remainder of this trip. Sidebottom must also surely sit this one out, having struggled visibly with an Achilles problem that left his pace below 80mph for long periods of the fourth Test. Do England therefore opt for a second spinner in Monty Panesar, who has himself struggled for penetration in recent months, or does the young thruster Amjad Khan come into the equation instead. He's rapid and can swing the ball, and might yet be the best option in a must-win contest. One other change will be the return of Matt Prior, safely back in the fold after his paternity leave, for Tim Ambrose.
England (probable) 1 Andrew Strauss (capt), 2 Alastair Cook, 3 Owais Shah, 4 Kevin Pietersen, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Ravi Bopara, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Stuart Broad, 9 James Anderson, 10 Graeme Swann, 11 Amjad Khan.
Fewer dilemmas for West Indies, but one or two concerns remain. Ryan Hinds has under-performed at No. 4 and could come under pressure from Lendl Simmons, whose 282 in the St Kitts warm-up was the first indication that England's tour was going awry. Among the bowlers, Daren Powell might finally pay the price for an off-colour series. He upped his game when handed the new ball in the final innings at Bridgetown, but it might be too late to atone for a series in which his five breakthroughs have come at intervals of almost 20 overs each.
West Indies (probable) 1 Chris Gayle (capt), 2 Devon Smith, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Ryan Hinds, 5 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 6 Brendan Nash, 7 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 8 Jerome Taylor, 9 Lionel Baker, 10 Sulieman Benn, 11 Fidel Edwards.
Pitch and conditionsIt's a result wicket, so they say, but then Antigua was said to be "spicy" and Barbados was meant to be full of pace and bounce. Even if the Queen's Park Oval is more conducive to a proper contest, it's unlikely West Indies will object to another featherbed. They have their lead, after all, so why would they risk squandering it? Another factor could be the weather. The equator is close by, and the rains have been heavy in recent weeks.
Stats & Trivia
Quotes"I suppose fundamental to all of it is what is the best way of winning this game. Drawing it is no good for us."