By Ravi Madholall
In their pulsating fourth limited-over match in Grenada, both England and Windies provided rich entertainment by compiling over 800 runs from 98 overs. Having said that, the fifth and final game is expected to be riveting as well on Saturday in St. Lucia.
Despite the series is in favor of the tourists, 2-1, the battle should be competitive from ball one. Batsmen are obviously in the pristine form and again the hosts would bank heavily on their most senior and established batsman Chris Gayle to make another huge impression. Equally Darren Bravo is attractive and could be destructive while young Guyanese batting sensation Shimron Hetmyer is capable of lighting up the Darren Sammy Stadium with some fireworks.
Another exciting West Indian cricketer is Jamaican Andre Russell. He is included in the side and once declares fit, captain Jason Holder and cohorts would welcome him with both arms. His flamboyant approach and his T20 exploits should be a morale-boaster for the home team.
England batsmen, no doubt, will be looking anxiously to replicate those handsome batting exhibitions on a track that is set to be animated. Jos Butler, who cracked a belligerent, 77-ball 150, may not think too much about his other role as the wicketkeeper but more focusing to dominate with the willow. Apart from Butler, skipper Eion Morgan has been in prolific form as well and that will certainly boost the confidence significantly of the team. These two centurions arrived at the crease when their team was well placed in a solid position in Grenada. The foundation was nicely laid by openers Alex Hales and Jonny Bairstow while versatile all-rounder Ben Stokes can be dangerous once find the middle of the bat.
In that match it was a nightmare for both teams’ bowlers having conceded over 400 runs per innings. The line and length was badly lacking and on numerous occasions, the batsmen made the good length balls into half-volleys or full-tosses.
Notwithstanding that, at least for the Englishmen, a slow bowler brought a great amount of momentum in that department for them basically after the departure of Gayle, who waltzed his way to a scintillating 162. Leg-spinner Adil Rashid could not have found the right rhythm when Gayle was showing off his hitting extravaganza but he was able to prize out five wickets while pacer Mark Wood fell the brunt of the blade from few batsmen before ending with a supportive spell of four wickets.
Meanwhile, West Indies won the preceding three-match test series, 2-1 while the two sides are set to feature in three T20s soon after the 50-over rubber.
West Indies: (probable) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 John Campbell, 3 Shai Hope (wk), 4 Darren Bravo, 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Jason Holder (capt), 7 Andre Russell, 8 Ashley Nurse, 9 Devendra Bishoo, 10 Sheldon Cottrell, 11 Oshane Thomas.
England: (probable) 1 Alex Hales, 2 Jonny Bairstow, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Ben Stokes, 6 Jos Butler (wk), 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Liam Plunkett, 10 Adil Rashid, 11 Mark Wood.