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Rediff.com  » Sports » Shell-shocked England seek Antigua tonic

Shell-shocked England seek Antigua tonic

February 12, 2009 14:26 IST

West Indies and England head into the second Test in Antigua in contrasting moods with the common aim of putting the astonishing first Test out of their minds.

The tourists, shell-shocked after being bowled out for 51 to slump to an innings and 23-run defeat in Kingston, sorely need to focus purely on the next game.

West Indies, whose celebrations should have been tempered by the knowledge that they have had several false dawns during their long period of decline, can ill-afford to get carried away with a triumph that cheered the Caribbean.

Both teams should remind themselves that Saturday's batting collapse was all the more dramatic because it was so unexpected since West Indies had not won a Test against the English in their last 16 attempts going back to 2000.

This current West Indies team have more bowling options following the emergence of lanky left-arm spinner Sulieman Benn and they have a more resilient middle-order thanks to the presence of Australian-born Brendan Nash.

Many passionate Caribbean fans will wait before talking of corners being turned until Chris Gayle's side have shown consistency.

Excluding back-to-back wins over Bangladesh, the last time West Indies won two successive matches in the same Test series was at home to Australia in 1999.

That should give England heart along with the fact that the wicket at the Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Ground is one of the flattest in international cricket, offering little help to pace or spin.

TOURISTS DISINTEGRATED

If England captain Andrew Strauss is looking for a way to inject positive thinking into his team, he need only refer to the last time the tourists disintegrated in the Caribbean.

In 1994, in the third Test in Trinidad, a team captained by Michael Atherton were skittled for just 46 in their second innings when Curtly Ambrose ran amok with six wickets.

Just over a week later in Barbados England scored 355 and 394 to win by a margin of 208 runs.

England kept faith with the same team for both those games but that is unlikely this time with Ian Bell likely to be replaced by Owais Shah at number three.

Seamer James Anderson was left out of the first Test and is an alternative to Steve Harmison or Ryan Sidebottom.

West Indies will definitely make a change with Lendl Simmons, nephew of former test batsman Phil Simmons, expected to replace Xavier Marshall at number four.

The other option available to Gayle and coach John Dyson is Barbados all-rounder Ryan Hinds who bowls off-spin and bats in the middle order but with Gayle increasingly happy to bowl his own off-breaks, Simmons seems the likely choice.

Possible teams:

West Indies: Chris Gayle (captain), Devon Smith, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Lendl Simmons, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Brendan Nash, Denesh Ramdin (wicketkeeper), Jerome Taylor, Daren Powell, Sulieman Benn, Fidel Edwards.

England: Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook, Ian Bell or Owais Shah, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Matt Prior (wicketkeeper), Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, Steve Harmison, Monty Panesar.

Source:
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