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England excited about potential St Lucia 'run fest' against West Indies

West Indies aren't unhappy either. "When we looked on the schedule, all the batters were excited to come to St Lucia," Rovman Powell says

Matt Roller
Matt Roller
17-Jun-2024
England are anticipating "a run-fest" in St Lucia as they resume their six-hitting battle with West Indies in a Super Eight fixture. The sides hit 120 sixes between them in a five-match T20I series in December - which West Indies won 3-2 - and are both expecting high scores at the Daren Sammy Cricket Ground.
There were two group-stage games in St Lucia this weekend, which were played on the same strip and gave an indication as to how good the pitch is for batting. Australia pulled off the second-highest run chase of the T20 World Cup so far, hauling in 181 against Scotland - which sent England through - and Sri Lanka's 201 against Netherlands was the joint-highest total of the tournament.
England's players watched Saturday's game (local time) nervously from their hotel in Antigua after beating Namibia, exchanging WhatsApp messages on the team's group chat and even turning off when the game was tight. "It wasn't nice," Sam Curran said. "A few of us were having dinner and watching the Scotland game. It got quite close, and some of us turned it off because we got a bit nervous. Thankfully, the Aussies played really well to chase that down."
England play twice here in the Super Eight - against West Indies and South Africa - and made note how flat the pitch looked, with relatively short square boundaries allowing Australia and Scotland to hit 20 sixes between them. "It looks like a really good wicket, the way guys were able to hit through the line and the way the ball was travelling," Curran said, "[and] in last night's game, it looked like some good scores again."
"Sometimes it's about turning your sixes into fours as a bowler, and small things like that. It might sound silly, but that's where the game of cricket's going. Even if you go for a lot of runs, if you take a wicket in that over, you could change the game"
Sam Curran
West Indies will get a first look at the pitch when they face Afghanistan, with the same strip due to be used for a second time for their game against England. Their captain Rovman Powell expected his batters to relish a truer surface after variable bounce in Guyana and Trinidad.
"Tomorrow presents an opportunity here at the Daren Sammy Stadium for us as batters to get it right," he said on Sunday. "It's also a better opportunity on a better wicket… When we looked on the schedule, all the batters were excited to come to St Lucia. Traditionally, St Lucia has been a place where batters like to bat. But it's also an opportunity for bowlers to bowl good spells here - especially the fast bowlers."
This has been the lowest-scoring men's T20 World Cup out of nine, with just 6.69 runs per over on average. But those numbers have been skewed significantly by some dicey pitches at the temporary Long Island venue, and England - based on their experience in December - have long believed that the World Cup will be "a slug-fest", as their managing director Rob Key put it.
West Indies won the six count by a margin of 64-56 in that series, with all five games won by the team that hit more sixes. England's batters had a range-hitting session with Kieron Pollard - who has captained St Lucia in the CPL - when they trained on Monday morning, and are looking to beat West Indies at their own game.
"Sometimes it's about turning your sixes into fours as a bowler, and small things like that," Curran said. "It might sound silly, but that's where the game of cricket's going. Even if you go for a lot of runs, if you take a wicket in that over, you could change the game. Looking at our batting line-up, we deal in a lot of sixes as well: it'll be a run-fest on Wednesday, I'm sure."
The other major factor to note in St Lucia is the breeze: winds of around 10mph have blown from the east to the west of the ground, with some balls flying unexpectedly for six and others swirling in the breeze. "We have chatted as a bowling unit: in the Caribbean, the wind's a big factor," Curran said.
Curran played his first match of the tournament in England's rain-shortened game against Namibia on Saturday, with him and Chris Jordan replacing Will Jacks and Mark Wood. Jos Buttler, their captain, said after their win that those changes were due to the specifics of an 11-over game - which was later reduced to ten - but there are tough calls to make ahead of Wednesday night.
Liam Livingstone left training early after netting on Monday and is a doubt due with a niggle in his side, while England must decide whether Jacks should come straight back in at No. 3 or whether their batting line-up is better balanced with Jonny Bairstow and Harry Brook shuffling up to three and four respectively.
England selected Jordan in their squad in anticipation of high-scoring games, offering extra batting depth from No. 8, but he has conceded 10.87 runs per over so far at the World Cup. They will weigh his all-round capabilities up against the need for early wickets against a West Indies side who will bat very deep themselves.

Matt Roller is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfo. @mroller98