Not long ago, the England Cricket team were showered with praises from past and present cricketers, not to mention the media. But now, as they stare down the barrel with a must-win against the West Indies, not all look rosy for Andrew Strauss’ men.
While not many gave the Darren Sammy-led West Indies a chance, but now, the tide has changed and how. While Strauss has some work to do in order to get his team in shape, Sammy too has his plates full. With Kevin Pietersen, Stuart Broad ruled out of the World Cup, Strauss is in double trouble. The losses to Bangladesh and Ireland notwithstanding, the English captain has many worries in the fragile middle-order.
With eith Ravi Bopara or Ian Bell likely to do the opening honours, keeper-batsman Matt Prior may be asked to bat down the order. With Eoin Morgan looking a certainty to play his part in the middle-order, Strauss will have to decide whether to play the woefully out-of-form Paul Collingwood. While Colly’s commitment or talent has never been in question, his form would be compounding the worries for Strauss ahead of a do-or-die encounter at the Chepauk on Thursday afternoon.
English bowlers haven’t necessarily set the stage ablaze. The biggest culprit for their indifferent show in the quadrennial event has been none other James Anderson. He has doubled the misery for his team with his aweful length especially during the slog overs but the heartening aspect has been Graeme Swann’s spells. While Graeme may not have had a Swann-song yet, but the offie is capable of coming to the party against the Windies on Thursday as he is known to be a big-match player.
West Indies, on the other hand, are on a three-match winning streak and more importantly, have the momentum by their side. A game which depends so much on momentum could surely tilt the equation in the Carribean team’s favour. While Sammy would prefer dashing opener and former captain Chris Gayle to feature in the side, the left-hander could still be preserved for the knockout stages of the competition.
With the batting order have not necessarily sizzled in this competition, their bowling order has been on target. With the likes of pacers Kemar Roach, Sammy spearheading the attack, the presence of Suleiman Benn has added teeth to the attack. West Indies possess dynamite in the form of Kieron Pollard who can not just give the white ball a whack but can scalp a few wickets to give his team the edge. If Pollard is given the freedom to bat up the order, no score is big for his team and no boundary long.
With WI skipper yet to win a toss in this tournament, he would want to do on Thursday as batting first on the Chepauk wicket is easier than chasing under the lights under humid conditions which could test any batting line-up.
The England-West Indies clash will be watched closely by India and Bangladesh for obvious reasons. Lots will change in the World Cup by the time the match ends.