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Robinson, Overton in line for recalls as Paul Collingwood praises Stokes' return to form

Coach praises team spirit after battling for the upper hand in Antigua and Barbados

Cameron Ponsonby
21-Mar-2022
Ben Stokes drives through the off side during his century in Barbados  •  Randy Brooks/AFP via Getty Images

Ben Stokes drives through the off side during his century in Barbados  •  Randy Brooks/AFP via Getty Images

Ollie Robinson and Craig Overton will be available for the third and final Test against West Indies in Grenada, as England look to force a 1-0 victory against a side that has held on for a draw in the opening two matches of the series.
Robinson missed the first Test after suffering a back spasm in the warm-up fixture and despite bowling regularly and at full intensity leading up to the second match was not risked. Overton was due to play in Barbados, but was withdrawn from the team on the morning of the match through illness.
The availability of the two could lead to a rejigged starting XI as England ponder the make-up of an attack which has toiled on two flat and lifeless surfaces in the Caribbean over the past two weeks.
The most likely option appears to be Robinson and Overton returning to the starting XI in place of Chris Woakes, who has struggled in the opening two Tests, and Matt Fisher, who impressed on debut but was playing only as Overton's late replacement.
The more radical option, and one that England may contemplate given the nature of the surfaces that they have so far encountered in the Caribbean, is to play two spinners and give a long-awaited debut to wrist spinner Matt Parkinson.
"We'll have to gauge it over the next couple of days", Paul Collingwood, the interim head coach, said. "Ollie Robinson has not played in the first two Tests but looks as though he is ready and available and Overton has overcome illness. We will look at the wicket in Grenada and see what make-up of the team is suited to take 20 wickets."
Parkinson has been a regular in England's squads over the past two years, including last year's tours of Sri Lanka and India, in which he did not play a single competitive fixture. He was part of the Lions squad in Australia before Christmas, but flew home before he could be drafted into the main Ashes squad, having been overlooked for the unofficial Test against Australia A in Brisbane - a match that featured four of the team that took the field in Barbados, in Fisher, Mahmood, Alex Lees and Ben Foakes.
"[Parkinson] is as ready as he can be," Collingwood said. "The simple fact is, in Covid times, you don't get matches between. They are back to back, it is putting a lot of stress on the players and the downside is we don't have matches in between to have preparation time for guys who are not playing. We've just got to make sure they get time on their feet, get their steps in fitness-wise and the overs under their belt."
In all, Collingwood was full of praise for his England side after they finished a second successive Test match on the front foot as West Indies batted 65 overs on day five for the loss of just five wickets to hold out for a draw. While it was not a win for the touring side, it was another sign of progress for a team that has won just one of their last 16 Test matches.
"I think the way we've gone about it the first two Tests has been very impressive. We are getting closer," Collingwood said. "We gave ourselves a little chance today. Going into the fifth day people were expecting a high-scoring draw and I thought the way we went about it in that morning session proves what sort of mindset we've got. We want to go and win the game.
"It is hard work, three back-to-back Test matches takes a lot out of you as players, but you can't fault the attitude they've shown in both matches. I think this has been more impressive, to back up last week's performance with some high-class individual performances and as a team we never gave up."
Collingwood reserved praise in particular for Ben Stokes, whose 11th Test century was an impressive innings of 120 off 128 balls, with strokeplay reminiscent of his career-best 258 at Cape Town in 2016.
The innings was played out in front of more than one set of TV cameras, as Stokes is currently the subject of a TV documentary with a film crew out in the Caribbean filming his movements. It's a detail that Collingwood isn't convinced is helpful for the Durham all-rounder, although he can't deny Stokes' suitability for playing the starring role.
"He's box office. Everyone was watching. You didn't want to miss a ball he was facing. In many ways it shows where we are as a team that guys can go out and express themselves. They want to put on a show, get a win under their belts, and we have a great attitude at the moment.
"You can tell he wants to make a difference in the dressing room as a leader," Collingwood added. "When he's preparing himself like he is at the moment, he certainly leads. He wants to go out in the middle and put in big performances. He wants the ball in hand and to score the runs. He's doing just that at the moment. It's amazing when he's got this kind of attitude, as we all know he's one of the best. Long may it continue."

Cameron Ponsonby is a freelance cricket writer in London. @cameronponsonby