England desperate to avoid Test series whitewash against Windies in St Lucia

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England are staring at a 3-0 whitewash.

West Indies will have the chance to complete a 3-0 whitewash over England when the two sides meet for the third and final Test at St. Lucia beginning on Saturday.

The hosts lead the series 2-0 after emphatic victories at Barbados and Antigua and will be looking to make it three in a row against Joe Root’s England.

As the hosts search for another victory while England look to salvage some pride, we look at the key talking points heading into the third Test.

ENGLAND ON THE BRINK

Not since the mid-1980s have England been so completely outclassed by the West Indies on Caribbean shores. That was when the Caribbean side was still at its peak before going into freefall.

For the first time in 33 years, England face the prospect of a Test series whitewash in West Indies. Only eight times in history have England ever been whitewashed in a Test series with the most recent one coming against Australia in the 2013-14 Ashes Down Under.

Since the turn of the 21st century, England have suffered that ignominy on three occasions. Joe Root and his men will be desperate to not become the first English side to suffer that fate in the Caribbean since David Gower’s side were blanked 0-5 in 1986.

The tourists are facing the wrong side of history.

The tourists are facing the wrong side of history.

TOURISTS GRAPPLE WITH MULTIPLE INJURY CONCERNS

As if the daunting task of preventing a humiliating series whitewash isn’t enough, England also have injuries to some key players to worry about.

Ben Foakes and Chris Woakes were already struggling with injuries but the alarm bells were well and truly ringing for England on Thursday with Ben Stokes being forced to sit out of training with a bruised heel.

The star all-rounder has been one of England’s busiest bowlers in the series so far with only James Anderson sending down more overs than him in the two Tests so far.

The tourists still remain hopeful of Stokes’ participation in St. Lucia with the all-rounder set to undergo a late fitness test. Meanwhile, Woakes looks unlikely to feature in the final Test as he continues to recuperate from his knee injury while wicketkeeper Foakes remains a doubt with a bruised hand.

Stokes is a doubt for the third Test.

Stokes is a doubt for the third Test.

HOLDER-LESS WINDIES LOOK TO CHANGE ST.LUCIA RECORD

As West Indies seek to apply the finishing touches to what has been a fantastic series for them, they will have to do it without inspirational skipper Jason Holder.

The talismanic all-rounder was handed a one-match suspension for his side’s slow over-rate in the second Test and it will now be Kraigg Braithwate who leads the hosts at St. Lucia.

Holder has been key for the Caribbean side in the series with his stunning double ton in the first Test paving the way for a comfortable win. While he has average over 114 with the bat in the series, Holder has also picked up seven wickets with the ball with an average of less than 18.

The skipper’s absence will no doubt be felt by the hosts who have so far won only one of the six Tests they have played at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in St. Lucia.

The pitch at St. Lucia has traditionally been a batting paradise and as such, the hosts will have their work cut out if they want to enforce a result. However, they will be still confident of doing that job given the fact that their bowlers have bowled England out for under 200 in three of the four innings so far.

The hosts will have to do it without Holder.

The hosts will have to do it without Holder.

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Pakistan great Wasim Akram picks India as his favourites for 2019 ICC World Cup

Waseem Ahmed 8/02/2019
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Akram has rated India's chances as higher than Pakistan's.

Former Pakistan pacer Wasim Akram has picked India as his favourites for the 2019 ICC World Cup to be held in England.

Akram, who is one of the most legendary bowlers ever produced by Pakistan, believes the Men in Green will be among one of the contenders for the crown in England but has rated India’s chances as brighter.

“Among the teams that are involved in the cricket World Cup, Pakistan have always been an outfit that people loved to watch and follow. You can never write them off. India look firm favourites for me,” the Pakistan icon wrote in his column for the Times of India.

“New Zealand are the dark horses, but Pakistan are right up there,” he added.

Having captured the 2017 ICC Champions Trophy in England against all odds, Pakistan will certainly fancy their chances of repeating that feat at the same venue. Led by Sarfraz Ahmed, the team is an exciting mix of younger and more experienced players and have shown incredible consistency in the T20 format where they are the No1 ranked team by some distance.

Akram has credited the PSL for Pakistan's resurgence.

Akram has credited the PSL for Pakistan’s resurgence.

Akram has credited the Pakistan Cricket Board (PCB) and Pakistan Super League (PSL) for the change in the team’s fortunes in the limited-overs formats.

“I’ll give credit to the Pakistan Super League and our board for the resurgence of Pakistan cricket. We have a young side, apart from a Mohammad Hafeez and a Shoaib Malik, everyone is in their mid 20s. They are young, as well as experienced. The fielding also has improved,” he wrote.

Chasing their second title, Pakistan will open their 2019 World Cup campaign against two-time champions West Indies at Trent Bridge on May 31.

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Pant's finishing prowess, bowlers' fightback the talking points from India's T20 win in Auckland

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Pant and Dhoni finished off the chase for India at Auckland.

After tasting a crushing defeat in the series opener, India bounced back in style against New Zealand with a comprehensive seven-wicket win in the second T20 at Auckland.

In front of a packed house at Eden Park, the visitors chased down New Zealand’s total of 158-8 with seven balls to spare to restore parity in the three-match series at 1-1.

At the end of what was India’s first T20 win on New Zealand soil, we take a look at the key talking points from the clash.

KRUNAL AND KHALEEL REDEEM THEMSELVES

After conceding 85 runs in eight overs between them in the first T20, there were question marks over Krunal Pandya and Khaleel Ahmed’s spots in the team. In the end, stand-in skipper Rohit Sharma persisted with the duo at Auckland and his faith was repaid manifolds with the two ending up being the chief architects of India’s victory.

Krunal was entrusted to bowl in the powerplay and the left-arm spinner struck twice in the sixth over to send back the dangerous Colin Munro and Daryl Mitchell. In his next over, Pandya landed the big fish in the form of Kane Williamson by trapping the Kiwi skipper plumb in front of the wickets.

While Krunal broke the back of New Zealand’s batting, it was Khaleel who shone at the death with the scalps of Mitchell Santner and Tim Southee. The left-arm pacer was in his elements this time, castling the stumps of both the tail-enders to cap off a fine spell.

Together, the duo only conceded 55 runs from their eight overs, a major improvement on the Wellington showing.

A fine comeback by Krunal and Khaleel.

A fine comeback by Krunal and Khaleel.

MITCHELL DISMISSAL RAISES DRS CONTROVERSY

The second T20 was not without controversy with Krunal’s dismissal of Mitchell raising plenty of eyebrows. Having just dismissed Munro three deliveries earlier, Pandya struck the pads of Mitchell and immediately went up in appeal.

The on-field umpire raised the dreaded finger but Mitchell wasted no time in calling for a DRS review. The Kiwi batsman was confident that he had got an inside-edge before being struck on the pads and Hotspot showed a clear mark on Mitchell’s bat.

However, the other replay using Snicko did no show any spike when the ball passed the bat, leading the third-umpire to go with the on-field decision.

As Williamson stood in disbelief at the other end, an exasperated Mitchell walked up to Rohit to protest the decision but the India skipper chose not to withdraw the appeal. In the end, Mitchell had no option but to make the long walk back to the pavilion with the frailties of the DRS technology once again exposed.

Williamson cannot believe it.

Williamson cannot believe it.

CAPTAIN ROHIT OVERTAKES GUPTILL

Skipper Rohit Sharma ensured India did not lose their way in the pursuit of a modest target. The India opening batsman struck a his 16th T20I half-century, taking only 28 deliveries to get to the mark before his innings was brought to an end by Ish Sodhi.

In the process of getting to his fifty, Rohit overtook Martin Guptill to become the highest run-scorer in T20I cricket. The right-hander now has 2,228 runs from 84 innings to his name compared to Guptill who has 2,272 runs from 10 fewer innings.

By the time Rohit was dismissed, India had already racked up 79 runs in nine overs and it was no surprise then that the visitors coasted to victory with Shikhar Dhawan and Rishabh Pant chipping in with important contributions.

A new T20I milestone for Rohit Sharma.

A new T20I milestone for Rohit Sharma.

PANT AND DHONI FINISH IT OFF IN STYLE

The first T20 had been a disappointing one for most of India’s batsmen including Rishabh Pant who scored just four runs. On Friday, with veteran MS Dhoni watching from the other end, the youngster showed glimpses of his finishing prowess with a fine unbeaten 28-ball 40 to help India cross the finish line.

With India’s openers having set things up nicely, Pant started in explosive fashion with some trademark hits to the fence. While his hitting powers have never been in doubt, the young man also showed that he can keep a calm head when it comes to finishing off a run chase.

Once Vijay Shankar was dismissed and Dhoni walked into bat, Pant showed a much more mature head by milking singles and doubles to keep the runs ticking nicely.

It was almost as if the youngster was trying to prove that he can take over the mantle from Dhoni. With still more than three months to go for the World Cup in England, Pant’s innings will definitely give the Indian selectors something to think about.

Rishabh Pant showed his class with the bat.

Rishabh Pant showed his class with the bat.

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