Who will lift the Wisden Trophy?
By Akeem Greene
Cricket in the summer is synonymous to England and at the start, it seemed highly unlikely there would be any cricket or sport in general due to the country taking a serious hit from COVID-19. After initial postponements and uncertainty, West Indies decided to make the tour and keep the return Wisden Trophy series alive.
Generally, West Indies have found touring England extremely difficult, but the recent performances and an extremely potent pace attack had buoyed their chances; after all, they are current holders of the Wisden Trophy.
But to be blunt, it was more fanciful than realistic to expect at this point, West Indies would still be within a chance to not just retain the Trophy, but also win a series in England after 32 years. England, on the other hand, have not lost a home series since 2014 against Sri Lanka.
It goes to show how well West Indies have performed and they could have already retained the trophy had their batting showed more mettle in the second Test.
It is down to the finale, which starts on Friday at Old Trafford, the same venue as the second Test and the ground where West Indies encamped for close to a month.
It is necessary to add the latter since it is hoped that Jason Holder and company could have a better read of conditions, which also reflects in team selection and strategy.
On the eve of the match, the skipper was questioned on the role off-spinning all-rounder Rakheem Cornwall could play given the nature of the surface.
“If he does come in, he is a wicket-taker and he has proven to be a match-winner not only at the Regional level, but also in the last Test match he played…he is a quality spinner and no doubt to me he would be the best spinner on show this series,” Holder stated at the virtual press brief.
“He is not only a wicket-taking option, but he brings a bit more in slip catching, batting and obviously he brings a lot of control with his art.”
Holder reiterated he will stick to his custom of picking his final XI on the morning of the match, dependent on prevailing conditions.
He further stated they will only be considering players from the current 15-man squad, unless a player gets injured, which hints that the underperforming Shai Hope and John Campbell could be given an extended run.
Campbell and Hope have averaged 17.33 and 14.25 respectively on this tour. Since his twin hundreds at Headingley three years ago, Hope has averaged less than 25 in Tests, leading to calls that he has had more than enough chances.
Campbell’s chances to play are higher since the back-up opener on tour is Shayne Moseley, but he is on the reserve list. However, there could be little less hope for Hope since there is the option of Nkrumah Bonner, who also bowls leg-spin
“All of our players have got the full backing and they know how I personally feel. Yes, some of them have not been getting the runs they would like, but more or less it is giving them that full support. I am 100% behind Shai; we all know what Shai can produce and what he has done at this level in Test cricket,” said Holder when questioned on Hope’s fate for this Test.
He added: “He [Hope] is arguably one of the best One-Day batsmen in the world and we know the calibre of player he can be, so I have got full confidence in Shai to get some runs. He has gotten starts this series [and] he is not far off from converting the starts into some really special for us, so he has got my full support.”
Holder wants his troops to improve on their fielding and the batsmen to answer to the calls to convert their starts into centuries.
He also said that Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach and Alzarri Joseph have pulled up well and are capable of handling the rigours of another Test in such a short period.
England have completely changed their pace group for both of the Tests thus, but might be inclined to field their best which could mean a return for James Anderson and Jofra Archer to support Stuart Broad.
Also, there is a chance Ben Stokes could play as a specialist batsman, due to a slight injury to his quad.
The first ball is scheduled for 11:00h (06:00h Eastern Caribbean Time).
England squad for final Test: Joe Root (captain), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
West Indies Test Squad: Jason Holder (captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Chemar Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach.