West Indies v England, 4th ODI, Bridgetown March 29, 2009

Gayle forces England onto back foot


Chris Gayle's astounding batting has pushed England to the brink of a series defeat © Getty Images
 

Match facts

Sunday March 29
Start time 9.30am (13.30GMT)

Big picture

England are ending their Caribbean tour as they began it, beset by off-field rifts and dripping with unadulterated humiliation. Their walloping in the third ODI was quite possibly their most pathetic effort of a success-starved winter, involving as it did a total brain-freeze from batsmen and bowlers alike. Had it not been for John Dyson's Duckworth-Lewis miscalculation in the first match at Providence, there would be nothing left to play for in this series, but mentally England's players have packed up and gone home already, not least Kevin Pietersen, whose dissatisfaction couldn't really be more clear.

But far from revelling in the prospect of a rare clean-sweep of victories across all three formats, West Indies are themselves embroiled in disputes. Their captain, Chris Gayle, has warned that he could yet lead a boycott of the fifth and final ODI in St Lucia next week, if the thorny issue of the player contracts are not sorted out in a hurry. The wranglings have not affected his form one iota - quite the opposite in fact - but if anything is going to allow England back into this series, disharmony in their opponent's ranks is the likeliest route.

Form guide (most recent first)

West Indies WWLLN
England LLWLL

Watch out for …

Chris Gayle's contemptuous onslaught in Barbados was the culmination of a glorious winter of performances, that began with his flyswatting half-century in the Stanford 20/20 for 20, and continued through his twin hundreds in the Test series. His habitual power and timing were joined by a streak of inventiveness, as he flogged eight sixes in a 43-ball 80, from third man, to cover, to long-on, to wide midwicket. This is his team, in every sense of the word, and so his off-field leadership will be every bit as critical as his on-.

Kevin Pietersen was once a leader of men. Right now he's reverted to being the malignant source of disruption that his critics always suspected him to be. Whether he was right to pour his heart out to a daily newspaper is debatable - some would applaud his honesty, others, such as Nasser Hussain, were scathing of his actions - but one thing that's clear is that the final week of this campaign will be among the longest of his international career.

Team news

Team changes of the industrial-action type may appear come the final ODI, but for now West Indies have a series to win, and a finely balanced side with which to achieve it. It's hard to envisage any changes just yet. England, on the other hand, have pretty much exhausted their options. How many more times can they shuffle their pack to no avail? At least Andrew Flintoff is back in action, although his sixth-ball duck on Friday reaffirmed the doubts about his batting form.

West Indies (possible) 1 Chris Gayle (capt), 2 Lendl Simmons, 3 Ramnaresh Sarwan, 4 Shivnarine Chanderpaul, 5 Kieron Pollard, 6 Dwayne Bravo, 7 Darren Sammy, 8 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 9 Lionel Baker, 10 Nikita Miller, 11 Fidel Edwards.

England (possible) 1 Ravi Bopara, 2 Andrew Strauss (capt), 3 Kevin Pietersen, 4 Owais Shah, 5 Paul Collingwood, 6 Andrew Flintoff, 7 Matt Prior (wk), 8 Dimitri Mascarenhas, 9 Stuart Broad, 10 Gareth Batty, 11 James Anderson.

Pitch and conditions

With rain in the air on Friday, it proved to be an exceptional toss to win for West Indies, as England were inserted on a lively track and succumbed to a meek array of cross-batted swishes. But, as Gayle subsequently demonstrated in his blitzkrieg, there's nothing much wrong with the Bridgetown surface. Seventeen wickets fell in five days during the Test match - it's a batsman's ground, regardless of the impression England gave.

Stats & Trivia

  • Friday's victory over England was only West Indies' second at Bridgetown in 15 ODIs since 1999
  • England's total of 117 in that match was their 15th lowest in ODI history
  • Quotes

    "I'm confident, but not overconfident. I'm a little nervous too, because it is a very important game. We want to win the series."
    Gayle's target for the end of the match is an unassailable 3-1 series lead.

    "There are 11 guys in that dressing room right now feeling pretty down on themselves. It wasn't a contest, we didn't play well."
    Strauss has few positives to take from Friday's rout

    Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo