West Indies are likely to be forced into a late change to their anticipated batting line-up with Dale Richards, the 32-year-old uncapped opener, unlikely to be fit for his Test debut after picking up a foot injury while playing for Barbados against Leewards Islands in St Maarten last week.
Richards has been for a scan on the problem but his coach, John Dyson, wasn't hopeful over his chances of recovering. "At the moment I'm more pessimistic," he said. "He was hit a few days ago and the foot has swollen up again after practice."
It is a blow to West Indies' plans after Richards had been pencilled in to open alongside Chris Gayle, the latest combination the home side have called upon to combat the new ball. Gayle has been the common dominator in the pairings, and is coming off an impressive run of form in New Zealand where he hit 197 in Napier, but West Indies' problems at the top of the order date back to the early 1990s when Desmond Haynes and Gordon Greenidge ended their prolific alliance.
At 32, however, Richards isn't a long-term solution and it could be an incredibly unlucky break for him if he misses this Test - another chance may not come along. The performances of Lendl Simmons and Adrian Barath for West Indies A last week showed that there is batting talent out there. In particular Simmons, the nephew of the former West Indies opener Phil, may not be far away from a Test debut.
Their opportunities, though, will have to wait a little longer. In the short term, at least for the opening Test, Devon Smith is ready to resume an opening pairing with Gayle that has had moments of success. Originally Smith was expected to take the No. 4 slot ahead of Xavier Marshall, who is fortunate to be in this squad after a poor tour of New Zealand. Patience is running thin with Marshall and if his chance comes on Wednesday he has to take it.
"Marshall didn't have the best of times in New Zealand," Gayle admitted, and he could have been harsher over a Test average of 14.66 and a one-day return of 19. "He has to produce here, but he has support from us to perform."
Dyson, though, believes that, on the whole, West Indies have had a solid build-up to the Test and the ongoing four-day regional tournament has been a boost. "It's meant batsmen have been able to go back and find form if they needed to," Dyson said. "But after the New Zealand tour most of the bowlers needed a break and they have had that too."
Jerome Taylor, a key man if West Indies are to enjoy success over the next five weeks, returned from New Zealand with a few niggles but is now back to full fitness.
One of the contests to watch in this series will be the renewing of the friendly, but strong, rivalry between Gayle and Kevin Pietersen. Neither are shy of having a word to each other and when England players weren't included in the first IPL auction last year Gayle responded by sending a text to Pietersen full of dollar signs. The respect, however, is mutual.
"He's the sort of character who can get a lot of runs. He is in good form after a 100 and a 90 [in St Kitts] but I think I know how to get him out," Gayle said with a smile. "We have some plans for him." Pietersen and England take note, this West Indies side is up for a battle.