West Indies v England, 4th ODI, Bridgetown April 2, 2009

After the strike, back to the striking

Chris Gayle: far more adept at striking of the six-hitting variety © Getty Images

Match facts

Friday April 3
Start time 9.30am (13.30GMT)

Big picture

Would they play they play or wouldn't they? Until the eve of the fifth and final ODI in St Lucia, no-one could say for sure. The West Indies Cricket Board had been locked in crisis talks with the Players' Association, with the threat looming, not only of a boycott of Friday's fixture, but - going forward - a mass withdrawal from the tour of England which commences later this month, and clashes head-on with the lucrative Indian Premier League.

The crisis was ultimately averted, but with so much up in the air for so long, it's hard to imagine how the players have managed to focus on what is suddenly a must-win match. West Indies may have outscored England by 23 sixes to three, but thanks to a misreading of the Duckworth-Lewis charts in Guyana and a tour de force in another rain-affected contest from Andrew Strauss, England somehow made up for their serious shortcomings in games two and three to move into a position to strike (in the non-industrial sense).

Form guide (most recent first)

West Indies LWWLL
England WLLWL

Watch out for …

Leading into this series, Andrew Strauss had an unflattering reputation as an ODI batsman. He had not played in England's limited-overs set-up for two years because of doubts about his big-hitting abilities, but two spectacular efforts in this series - one stand-alone century in defeat in Guyana and a brilliant 79 not out from 61 balls to square the series in Barbados - have cemented his role, in the short-term at least. The simple fact is that he is in the form of his life, coming off the back of three hundreds in the Test series last month.

All eyes have been on Chris Gayle this week, first for his spectacular six-hitting exploits in Barbados - 13 in two games, including eight in an 43-ball 80 last Friday - then for his lead role in the threatened strike. He now says he is satisfied with the situation and will play, but will his eye be sufficiently on the ball to wallop England all over Gros Islet?

Team news

There could have been 11 team changes, but now it's done to one. Nikita Miller hurt his back while trying to smash a free hit out of the ground last week, so he is out, with his fellow spinner, Sulieman Benn, restored to the squad. His omission was something of a surprise to England, given his starring role in the Jamaica Test victory, as well as two Twenty20 triumphs, starting with the Stanford Superstars in Antigua last year.

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 Sulieman Benn, 11 Fidel Edwards.

As for England, there are no obvious alterations to be made. Their seamers did a fine job to restrict West Indies to an attainable 239 for 9 in the last match, although there could yet be a temptation to re-introduce the spinner Gareth Batty - possibly at the expense of Steve Harmison, whose winter's Hokey-Cokey (in all internationals since November) currently reads: "In, in, out, out, in, in, out, in, out, out, in, out, out, in, in, out, in."

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 Steve Harmison, 11 James Anderson.

Stats & Trivia

  • Aside from a victory over Zimbabwe in 2002, West Indies have not won a single ODI at Beausejour since 2004, when they beat none other than England in back-to-back fixtures
  • The highest score ever made in an ODI in St Lucia is 363 for 5, by New Zealand against Canada at the 2007 World Cup
  • Quotes

    "We're totally focused ... even though a lot of things have been happening off the field. We're here to play cricket. Hopefully we can finish off on a high."
    Chris Gayle looks forward to putting the power struggles behind him

    Andrew Miller is UK editor of Cricinfo