Victory or bust in Antigua

Tony Becca , Senior Sport Editor

March 20, 1998

CRICKET: St. Johns: The sixth and final Test between the West Indies and England opens at the Antigua Recreation Ground today and although the Windies have already retained the Wisden Trophy, it promises to be a grand finale to a close, exciting and at times dramatic series.

The West Indies lead the count 2-1 and a draw will leave them with the honours.

The promise of a thrilling climax however, stems from the pledge by both teams that they are going for victory.

The West Indies want to remove all doubts as to which is the better team following the consensus that rain saved them in the fifth Test.

``This is my first series as captain of the West Indies,'' said Brian Lara, ``and it would be nice to win it convincingly.''

England have no choice. They have to go for it. They have to try, not only to win their first Test in five attempts at the ARG, but also to become, after Len Hutton's team in 1954, only the second England team to win two Test matches in a series in the West Indies.

After coming to the Caribbean with visions of victory for the first time in 30 years, all England can now hope for is a draw.

``We cannot win the series, but we have played well,'' said England captain Mike Atherton. ``I believe we could have won at Kensington but for the rain on the last day and it would be some compensation if we win here and share the series.''

As the captains prepare for battle, the question is who will they take with them on to the field?

For the West Indies, who have already used 16 players in the series, opening batsmen Philo Wallace and Clayton Lambert, top batsmen Lara, Shivnarine Chanderpaul and Carl Hooper, wicketkeeper Junior Murray and fast bowler Curtley Ambrose and Courtney Walsh are sure to be among them. The problem is should it be Roland Holder or James Adams at number six, should it be four fast bowlers or three and right-arm legspinner Dinanath Ramnarine?

Holder does not look the part. It is however, probably because he has been in an out, and with Adams looking so unsure and upsetting the fans with his excessive pad play, Holder should be given another chance.

Four fast bowlers? Not at all.

Commonsense suggests that on a new pitch of which little or nothing is known, the West Indies should go in with a balanced attack and that means Ramnarine. McLean or Rose? As fast as McLean has bowled at times during the series, it should be Rose - because of his ability to swing the ball and his tendency to keep it up to the batsman.

England, who are still not prepared to use Alec Stewart as the wicketkeeper, are expected to retain the same XI. It is possible however, that instead of three pacers and one spinner, they could omit Andy Caddick and go for two pacers - Angus Fraser and Dean Headley and two spinners - left-hander Phil Tufnell and offspinner Robert Croft.

Whatever the outcome, once the rain which scared Antiguans during the wee hours of Wednesday and yesterday stays away, it should be a lovely Test match between the two teams which christened the ground as a Test venue 17 years ago.

Source: The Jamaica Gleaner

Contributed by CricInfo Management, and reproduced with permission

Date-stamped : 20 Mar1998 - 19:11