After a scintillating final afternoon from Jimmy Anderson and his teammates to pull of a remarkable victory in the Second Test in Grenada, England head over to Barbados with their tails up ahead of the final Test of the series.
With a 1-0 lead, England know that simply avoiding defeat at the Kensington Oval will be enough to deliver their first overseas series victory since 2012. But the visitors will be hoping for back-to-back wins when the sides resume hostilities on Friday in Bridgetown.
The second Test was particularly pleasing as it saw England win their first overseas Test in well over 2 years, as well as seeing the return to form of many of the senior players. A brace of fifties from skipper Alastair Cook, alongside an assured half-century from Jonathan Trott set the tone for the Test, and the work was continued by the experienced duo of Stuart Broad and Anderson in the second half of the match.
Looking ahead to the third Test, it appears likely that England will remain unchanged as those who underperformed in Antigua made amends in Grenada. The make up of the attack, the three frontline seamers, Moeen Ali offering some spin, and Ben Stokes as the all-rounder, served England well last time out, and unless conditions bring Rashid into the picture, it looks likely that attack will remain as it was.
If the pitch in Barbados does look conducive to turn, then England may consider Rashid. The Yorkshire leg-spinner has been carrying drinks thus far on this tour, and there have been many vocal advocates pushing for his inclusion. But it would be difficult to find a place for Rashid in what is becoming an increasingly settled side.
The batting line-up has also looked in progressively fine fettle as the tour has continued. Joe Root has simply been a run-machine, racking up a sensational 182* in the first innings in Grenada, to go along with his pair of fifties in the first Test. His Yorkshire teammate Gary Ballance has also been among the runs, to leave England in a seemingly settled mind-set.
There may be some temptation for England to rest a few of their senior players who will have to burden a heavy workload over the next few months. But a series victory is also vitally important, and as such it seems that the same XI will take to the field.
Things are not so simple for the West Indies, for all their good cricket thus far in the series, they find themselves 1-0 down due to one poor afternoon in Grenada. They are hopeful that Jerome Taylor should be fit to return to their attack, and if he makes it onto the field, he should give his side the bite in their attack that was so lacking last time out. There is also some worry over the form of many of the hosts senior batsman, most notably Chanderpaul and Darren Bravo, but both have built up enough goodwill to deserve another go here.
In what is an unprecedentedly busy year of Test cricket for England (17 Test’s over the next 9 months), victory in Barbados would provide a perfect start in the opening series, and prepare the side well for the challenges ahead.
The match starts at 15:00 BST on Friday 1st May.
Tickets for the fifth day of the Investec Ashes Test in Cardiff are currently still available priced £25 for adults, £15 for juniors (which is fully refundable if no cricket is played) and there are also a number hospitality packages for anyone who wants to see the first four days’ play in style.