LONDON, (Reuters) – Shivnarine Chanderpaul’s limpet-like batting and the express pace of Kemar Roach and Fidel Edwards will make West Indies dangerous opponents for strong favourites England in the three-test series starting on Thursday.
England top the world rankings, six places above their opponents, and have not lost a home test series since 2008, while West Indies have won only one of their last 18 tests on English soil and just one of their last 10 series.
With conditions also likely to favour England’s potent bowling attack, Darren Sammy’s touring side face a daunting task going into the first test at Lord’s.
“They’ve got Ottis Gibson as a coach who worked within the England set-up for three years, they’ve got two bowlers who can bowl very quick, they’ve got Chanderpaul who’s a world-class batsman who’s toured England on numerous occasions, so they’re certainly a team we have to be very careful of,” England fast bowler Stuart Broad told Sky Sports.
“We have to perform the way we can perform and should perform,” he added.
“We won’t look too far ahead in the series. We’ll look to that first hour in the first test match like we always do, try and set the tone and try and hit them hard.”
England lost 3-0 to Pakistan in the United Arab Emirates this year, a series in which their top-order batsmen struggled badly for runs, and although they fought back to draw 1-1 in Sri Lanka there are still grounds for concern.
Captain Andrew Strauss scored the last of his 19 test centuries 18 months ago and the 35-year-old opener will be fully tested by the hostility of Roach and Edwards. Roach suffered a twisted foot and as a precaution did not bowl on the last day of their warm-up match on Sunday but is set to play on Thursday.
Kevin Pietersen did return to form with a fine century in the second test win over Sri Lanka and the highly promising Jonny Bairstow is likely to make his test debut batting at number six.
If the batsmen can provide a solid platform, England certainly have the bowling attack to expose the inexperienced Windies top order.
Broad is likely to open with James Anderson, supported by Steve Finn, Graham Onions or Tim Bresnan, and Graeme Swann will be the lone spinner.
“We’d love to make early inroads,” Anderson said. “That’s my job and Stuart’s job. But from watching West Indies against Australia recently, they showed glimpses of a talented side.
“We can’t just expect them to roll over. They’re going to put up a fight. It’s going to be a challenge for us.”
Leading the West Indies resistance will be the obdurate Chanderpaul, the world’s top-ranked test batsman who has toured England six times with an average of 64.66.
The gritty left-hander has the technique and concentration to bat for long periods but he will need support from his team mates to repel the street-wise England bowlers.
West Indies showed signs of improvement in their recent home series loss to Australia, nearly upsetting the touring side in Barbados, and Sammy believes his young team are heading in the right direction after years in the doldrums.
“The only thing that has not been happening is the victories,” Sammy said. “We’ve been playing good, competitive cricket against strong sides like India and Australia and all our tests have been going five days and down to the wire.
“Not many teams go to India and give India a run for their money, but we did that.
“Coming from where we are right now, we are not going to start winning straight away. We are taking baby steps to the ultimate goal.
Sammy said the biggest problem was losing key moments in big matches.
“One bad session keeps costing us,” he said. “Champion teams seize the moment but we keep having a bad session where we might lose five wickets in an hour. We just need to cut that out. Once we eliminate those bad sessions then we’ll make progress.”