Just a few days after the completion of what was an exciting and tiring Test match in Antigua, England and West Indies lock horns once again. This time the venue will be the international stadium in Grenada.
Early reports are that the pitch looks similar to Antigua, and the question of how to conjure up twenty wickets will be foremost in both teams mind.
For England, all eyes will be on their final XI come the toss tomorrow. It is clear that they need to make some changes after a steady but lacklustre performance in Antigua. However, it is not beyond the realms of possibility that they would wish to remain unchanged for the second Test. It does however appear that they will be forced into at least one change, with James Tredwell injuring himself when attempting to take a return catch in the closing stages of the First Test. Moeen Ali, drafted into the squad after proving his fitness for Worcestershire last week, is in line to replace the Kent off-spinner.
Whilst it is probably justifiable to leave spinning duties to Ali, who performed brilliantly last summer against India, it does leave the side with an odd balance. Where would they fit Ali in their batting line up? If he comes back into his previous position of number 6, it would mean moving Stokes down to 7 and Buttler coming in at 8; both men played good knocks in the First Test and would perhaps be a bit wasted that far down the order.
A more positive move would perhaps be to move Ali in at the top of the order in the place of Jonathan Trott, who endured torrid return to the side last week. But this would be unfair on both Trott and Adam Lyth. Trott because it is difficult to judge him on the lone match, and Lyth because he is the next cab of the rank. To see Ali arrive and leapfrog him into the openers birth would be galling for a man who is on his first senior tour.
Luckily for England, the middle order picks itself, and in Ballance, Bell, and Root, they appear to have one of the better middle orders in world cricket. The bowlers are much more of a worry though, and with the pitch expected to be unhelpful, I would be inclined to get some more pace into the attack. Anderson looked off colour in the First Test, but has enough good faith to be given another go, but Broad is certainly dispensable, and Jordan looked short of Test class in my opinion. I’d like to see one of Plunkett or Wood given a go in this match, or even both of them. They both bowl with aggression and some real pace. A trio of Plunkett, Wood, and Stokes has the ability to run through a side, and they will all be required to play in this hitherto unparalleled busy year.
The final conundrum for England is what to do with Adil Rashid. Now that Ali has joined up with the squad, and if Tredwell pulls up for the Third Test; there is no point in carting Rashid around for a few more weeks, unless he gets a gig. If the pitch takes turn then I wouldn’t be against a bowling attack of Ali, Rashid, Anderson, Plunkett and Stokes.
The West Indies have less work to do before this Test, their side out bowled England in Antigua, and also applied themselves well with the bat at times during both innings. An unchanged side is perhaps the best option, although more will be expected from the mercurial Darren Bravo at number 3. The only change that I would advocate would be to drop Sulieman Benn and draft in the in-form leg spinner Devendra Bishoo. Benn was neither threatening nor economical in Antigua, and surely time has come to move on in the West Indies spin department. While Bishoo is in some regards a step backwards, his last Test being in 2012, he also enjoyed a very fruitful domestic season this year in the Caribbean. His 61 wickets at an average of 17 across 10 matches make him almost too tempting not to pick.
However the teams line-up tomorrow, it looks set to another intriguing Test between tow teams not yet comfortable in their own skin. For England, the task will be to find a way to take 20 wickets, for the West Indies it will be about finding the consistency to match their burgeoning talent.