This is the most crucial match of the NatWest Series. It will not decide the finalists, but the result will have an immense bearing on the third and final round of group matches that will start at the same Riverside ground tomorrow.
West Indies are the team that stand to lose the most. Another defeat will make it highly unlikely that they will reach the final; they would in that situation have to win both their last two matches, have England lose to Zimbabwe and then get through over England on superior run-rate.
For England, therefore, victory would mean a likely place in the final against Zimbabwe. The other side of the coin means that interest in the third-round matches would be considerably reduced. For the promoters of the tournament, the preferred scenario would be a West Indian victory today, but an English victory when the teams meet each other for the third time next Thursday. A close result for the first time in the tournament would also be appreciated.
England, on current form, must be considered favourites to win the match, as they beat Zimbabwe even more convincingly than Zimbabwe overcame the West Indians during the past week. But the prospect of probable elimination should they lose will be a powerful incentive for the West Indians, although they have appeared a much inferior team during the absences of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh. They have a hard task ahead of them to lift their game, but both teams are quite unpredictable - as indeed are Zimbabwe - so anything could happen.
On another cloudy and also windy morning, England won the toss and put West Indies in to bat. As befits the county's reputation, the Durham ground was a hive of activity and enthusiasm; the ground capacity for this match was 15,000 and probably almost 10,000 seats were filled at the start.
England played the same team that beat Zimbabwe, while West Indies replaced Corey Collymore with Reon King; once again the rumour that Walsh would be playing proved false. The teams were as follows:
England: Marcus Trescothick, Alec Stewart (captain), Andy Flintoff, Graeme Hick, Matthew Maynard, Graham Thorpe, Craig White, Mark Ealham, Andy Caddick, Darren Gough, Alan Mullally.
West Indies: Sherwin Campbell, Chris Gayle, Wavell Hinds, Brian Lara, Ricky Powell, Jimmy Adams (capt), Ridley Jacobs, Franklyn Rose, Nixon McLean, Mervyn Dillon, Reon King.