Preview: Anderson and Broad swing into town
England's trio of swing bowlers will pose major problems for West Indies
The 1st Test match at Lord’s had an air of futility for the first three days. England were clearly so much better that a win was as inevitable as against Bangladesh.
But at least when England trampled all over Bangladesh in 2010 we could savour the electrifying batting of Tamim Iqbal. One might marvel at Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s run accumulation, but even hardcore West Indies fans cannot be said to enjoy it. The game at Lord’s flickered briefly to life on the fourth day, forcing journalists to check back into their hotels, but it was quickly snuffed out by England’s hard-headed pragmatism.
To lovers of Test matches, the mismatch at Lord’s carried a lot of pathos. Although England’s resistance to the great West Indian sides of the 80s and 90s was often equally futile, at least there were a number of great cricketers – Botham, Gower, Gooch, Boycott – putting up a fight. It was a spectacle worth watching.
But at Lord’s, the West Indies, you felt, were always going to lose no matter how gamely they battled. This is the sixth series between the two sides since 2003 and in that time, England have won 13 Test matches and the West Indies just one.
The sole West Indies victory - by an innings in the Caribbean back in 2008-09 - adds to the pathos. None of the three men behind that win – Chris Gayle and Ramnaresh Sarwan, who made hundreds, and fast bowler Jerome Taylor, who took eight wickets – are playing. Each has had a dispute with the West Indies Board.
England are likely to be even stronger at Trent Bridge, which will play into the hands of their three swing bowlers. James Anderson has taken four five-wicket hauls in his five Tests at the ground. His last three Test matches at Trent Bridge have brought 25 wickets at an average of 12.
Meanwhile, Stuart Broad took eight victims in front of his home crowd against India last year and Tim Bresnan also took a five-for in the second innings in 2011.
England's off-spinner, Graeme Swann, has struggled to get a look in at his home ground. In his two previous Tests at Trent Bridge, Swann has bowled just 17 overs and is yet to pick up a wicket. The off-spinner has conceded 109 at an economy rate of 6.41.
England have won their last three Tests at Trent Bridge convincingly, inflicting an innings defeat upon New Zealand in 2008 then beating Pakistan and India by 354 runs and 319 runs respectively over the last two years.
Surprisingly, West Indies are unbeaten in all eight of their previous Test matches against England at Trent Bridge. But they haven't played there since 1995 and their proud record is unlikely to survive this game. Their only chance of a shock result is to exploit swing with the new ball, which has seen England’s openers struggle at the ground over the last few games.
But England should win comfortably as their long and aggressive middle order batting will bully the inadequate West Indies support bowlers once the ball goes soft. The major focus is likely to be on watching England hone their skills ahead of the South Africa series, which is a straight shoot-out for world number one Test status
This is where the West Indies play a vital role this summer. Whilst South Africa’s finest players have been playing IPL cricket, England’s team have been getting ready for the battle ahead with games for their counties, and this knock-up against the West Indies.
South Africa’s preparation to face England is in danger of being inadequate. After the IPL, they have only one international series before they come to England – a Twenty20 round robin against Zimbabwe and Bangladesh. It is hard to imagine less competitive, or relevant cricket as preparation to play Tests in England. They then have just two warm-up games before the 1st Test at the Oval on July 19th.
In a three-match series, a slow start can prove fatal. England’s bullying of the West Indies means they are likely to hit the ground running against a South African side still acclimatising to the longer format.