The focus will be on England’s selection and the pitch at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium as they look to bounce back from the Barbados thrashing and get some belief back into their cricket that has been shaken violently by West Indies.
The second Test in Antigua starts on Thursday and pressure will be on England to not only raise their game but match the clinical performance of the Windies, who outplayed the visitors in all departments in the opener.
As good as the Windies were in Barbados, England received ample criticism for being too cheeky with their selection, picking all-rounder Sam Curran ahead of proven seamer Stuart Broad and selecting the unreliable leg-spin of Adil Rashid instead of the stable left-arm spin of Jack Leach.
There are numerous headaches in the batting departments as well with the poor form of opener Keaton Jennings adding to the seemingly never ending woes of the Englishmen at the top of the order.
Here we take a look at the talking points for both teams heading into the Antigua Test.
BROAD AND LEACH FOR CURRAN AND RASHID
There is no point having extra batting options if the bowlers can’t pick up 20 wickets cheaply. England learnt that the hard way as the Windies first blew Joe Root’s team away for 77 in their first outing before plundering 415-6 in 103 overs. Add to it their score of almost 300 in the first innings and you can see how badly England’s bowling plans were exposed on a pitch where the Windies bowlers didn’t allow the visitors to cross 250.
Seamer Stuart Broad should find his way back into the team after the below-par bowling effort of left-arm seamer Curran. Broad’s height should also help him get more out of the Antigua surface. Left-arm spinner Leach in for leg-spinner Rashid is also a no-brainer as the former offers control while the latter bowled just nine overs and went for more than six an over in the second innings.
DENLY TO DEBUT?
Opener Jennings looked all at sea in the opening match, uncomfortable with both short and full balls. His partner Rory Burns made an inspiring 84 in the second outing so has pretty much nailed down his spot.
The only other player in the squad who can come in is Joe Denly, who is yet to play a Test. The Kent batsman has more than 10,000 first-class runs and will offer a right-left combination at the top with Burns.
He batted for a long duration at the nets in Antigua and should get a look in for the second Test. There is speculation the England management might bench keeper Ben Foakes, ask Jonny Bairstow to wear the gloves and have both Jennings and Denly. However, that would be unfair on Foakes who was the star of the series win in Sri Lanka.
WINDIES LOOK TO GO ALL OUT
Reports have emerged of the West Indies considering preparing a lively surface for the second Test. Given Jason Holder has genuine pace in his arsenal, it might not be the worst idea as Ben Stokes is the only bowler in the England side able to crank it up and he would still be recovering from bowling 50 overs in the first Test.
Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach offers a cutting edge to the Windies line-up and they have added tearaway quick Oshane Thomas to the squad. If Alzarri Joseph makes way for Thomas, the Windies will look to bombard England with sustained spells of short-pitched bowling.
The Windies turned in an inspired performance at the Kensington Oval, celebrating a 381-run victory after comprehensively outperforming the tourists in every discipline.
It was a sharp comedown for Joe Root’s team, who arrived in the Caribbean ranked second in the world – with the home side languishing in eighth – and with eight wins from their previous nine Tests.
And Radford, the former Middlesex and Glamorgan coach who has mentored many of the current crop of West Indies internationals, does not believe the balance of power has flipped after one four-day thrashing.
“We are still the underdogs,” he claimed.
“We are playing one of the best sides in the world and if you look at the world rankings we are quite a long way down. England were on quite a good run until last week but we have a lot of good performers and you can’t take us lightly.”
Radford expects changes in the opposition ranks but is more interested in the West Indies’ preparations than the finer details of England selection.
“There may be pressure on one or two places, they might juggle their pack a little bit,” he said.
“But we have to concentrate on ourselves, these boys have to be in the same frame of mind. I’ve read a lot that England didn’t turn up or England were poor, but sometimes you’re made to be poor.
“We maybe didn’t get the credit but that doesn’t matter, we’ve got to go and do it all again.”
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Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes would not argue if he became the fall guy for England‘s dismal performance in Barbados, with places on the line for this week’s second Test.
A bruising 381-run defeat in Bridgetown stopped Joe Root’s side in their tracks after their 3-0 whitewash over Sri Lanka before Christmas, a trip which saw Foakes announce himself in style at international level.
Initially arriving as cover for the injured Jonny Bairstow, Foakes struck a stylish century on debut, showed exemplary glovework throughout and walked away as man of the series.
In normal circumstances that would be enough to buy a long, unquestioned stint in the side but the manner and scale of the loss have raised questions over the balance of the XI in Antigua.
The continued presence of Bairstow, not to mention limited-overs keeper Jos Buttler, in the top six means there are plentiful options behind the stumps and though Foakes is widely acknowledged as the best of the three, his removal would allow England to re-balance with an additional bowling option.
Whether Root and head coach Trevor Bayliss are considering that seemingly harsh course of action remains to be seen but, after contributing just seven runs in two knocks at the Kensington Oval, the Surrey man is already one step ahead of them.
“I didn’t perform last game, so I couldn’t sit there and say ‘why did you drop me?’,” he said.
“I did really well in Sri Lanka and I completely want to play the next game but we lost by 300-odd runs and if a change is needed, a change is needed.
“You can’t think ‘am I going to get picked; am I not going to get picked?’ It will drive you crazy. If I get the nod, I get the nod.
“You know you’re going to have ups and down. No-one is ever going to be perfect throughout their career or throughout a series.”
Regarding @englandcricket - can we all just take a moment to respect Ben Foakes. In this game he’s kept for 204 overs and let past just the one bye. Wow!— Edward Wilson (@Eddie_Wils109) January 25, 2019
Bairstow, despite taking up the challenge of filling the problem position at number three has made no secret of the fact that he would reclaim the gloves in a heartbeat.
The Yorkshireman is fiercely proud of the improvements in his keeping in recent years and considers it part of his cricketing identity. He continues to train hard on that discipline, supporting Foakes but also pressing his own case.
“It’s a unique situation but it’s fine, there’s no awkwardness,” said Foakes.
“I didn’t think I’d be in Sri Lanka, then I thought I would have one game and then Jonny would be back. I don’t want to say I feel lucky to be here, but things have fallen into place and it’s just up to me to take the opportunity.”
The Barbados Test was Foakes’ first taste of defeat in an England shirt, as it was for Surrey team-mate Sam Curran.
After the consistent highs of Sri Lanka, it was a new and unwelcome experience.
“We were completely outplayed but it was one of those games where I felt not much went our way. It was a bit of a freakish game,” he explained.
“I’d say that, throughout the whole game, there was never a stage where that dressing room didn’t feel we could win the game. That may sound crazy if you look at the scoreboard, but there was always that determination to win. But something is not right if you’re getting beaten by that much.”