Big Picture

Much of this series has been played amid mizzle and murk but there is a much bigger cloud hanging over England now. Ben Stokes' arrest in the small hours after England had thumped West Indies in Bristol means both the fourth ODI and the Ashes squad announcement will be overshadowed by the off-field indiscretion of a star player.

There could be far-reaching consequences but, in the very near term, England will have to replace two key members of their first-choice XI (Alex Hales, who was with Stokes, has also been ruled out of the Oval match). Eoin Morgan admitted the disruption had not been ideal - the news breaking while England were training - but will hope his players can remain focused on their attempts to seal the series.

In normal circumstances England would feel confident against a West Indies side who they have beaten in 14 out of 15 completed ODIs - as Liam Plunkett suggested in the wake of taking five wickets to help them go 2-0 up in the series. Moeen Ali's carefree hundred down the order once again demonstrated England's strength in depth but, without their most-experienced opener and game-breaking allrounder, they look a little less secure in their overdog status.

For a while in Bristol, as Chris Gayle marched ominously towards what would have been his first ODI hundred in 30 months, West Indies were in with a shot at chasing 370. Gayle was then run out and they quickly ran out of steam, as Plunkett and Adil Rashid rounded the innings up.

This format looks to be West Indies' weakest suit, with the block-and-bash formula that serves them so well in T20 exposed over longer innings. Stuart Law, West Indies' coach, has already begun looking towards next year's World Cup qualifier and will be hoping for a few improved individual performances to help instill confidence. It has been a bumpy old tour for West Indies but they still have a chance to level this series if they can surprise an England team suffering a self-inflicted wound.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)

England WWLWW
West Indies WLLWL

In the spotlight

Moeen Ali waltzed out to take centre stage in Bristol, his 53-ball hundred the second-fastest by an Englishman in ODIs. As a top-order batsman in county cricket, he has sometimes struggled with the brief at No. 7, where can be required either to rebuild or slog from ball one, but this innings suggested he is mastering those demands; it was his first century outside of opening and helped shore England up from a position of 217 for 6, before an incendiary passage of 61 from 14 balls at the death blasted them out of West Indies' gravitational pull.

Key to West Indies' victory in the T20 at Chester-le-Street was the intimidating opening partnership between Gayle and Evin Lewis. But while Lewis has proved himself adept as a Gayle-a-like force in the shortest format, he has struggled to take that into ODIs. After 19 innings, he currently averages less than 25, with almost a third of his runs coming in one innings (148 versus Sri Lanka) last year. Bristol highlighted his struggle to find the right balance, as he struck two towering sixes off David Willey before holing out in the same over.

Teams news

Jason Roy will come straight in for Hales, having lost his place to Bairstow earlier in the summer. Compensating for Stokes' absence will be more difficult: Jake Ball and Tom Curran provide bowling options while Sam Billings has also been added to the squad.

England (probable) 1 Jason Roy, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Jos Buttler (wk), 6 Moeen Ali, 7 Chris Woakes, 8 Adil Rashid, 9 Liam Plunkett, 10 David Willey, 11 Jake Ball

West Indies will hope Kesrick Williams is fit again after a back spasm but could otherwise be unchanged.

West Indies (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Evin Lewis, 3 Shai Hope (wk), 4 Marlon Samuels, 5 Jason Mohammed, 6 Rovman Powell, 7 Jason Holder (capt), 8 Ashley Nurse, 9 Devendra Bishoo, 10 Jerome Taylor, 11 Miguel Cummins

Pitch and conditions

A day out, the surface at The Oval appeared firm and true with a touch of grass left on - so likely to be full of runs. The Champions Trophy saw England and Sri Lanka pull off 300-plus chases there earlier in the season. A clear, warm(ish) day in the capital should ensure the game goes off without delays.

Stats and trivia

  • West Indies have won two of their four ODIs at The Oval - including victory over England in the 2004 Champions Trophy final.

  • Liam Plunkett is now the second-leading ODI wicket-taker in 2017 with 33, three behind Afghanistan's Rashid Khan.


"It has been a little bit of a distraction. As a group we are strong at sticking together and working well as a team. It has the potential to affect the game but not letting that happen is something we will strive to do."
Eoin Morgan addresses the Stokes situation

"We're not quite playing at the tempo that I think that suits one-day cricket. We are caught between Test cricket and T20 cricket -- of course we're very good at T20 cricket and we're ever-improving in the Test match arena. This is the arena we need to make sure that we start grabbing hold of and we start understanding."
Stuart Law on the challenge for his players

Alan Gardner is an associate editor at ESPNcricinfo. @alanroderick