England throw down gauntlets to Jones

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No England side have had a better opportunity to whitewash the West Indies in the Caribbean than this group of visitors during the next five days. Under their captain's inspired leadership England have already rewritten the history books during this past month by adopting the style of cricket synonymous with the great West Indian teams of the previous three decades.

No England side have had a better opportunity to whitewash the West Indies in the Caribbean than this group of visitors during the next five days. Under their captain's inspired leadership England have already rewritten the history books during this past month by adopting the style of cricket synonymous with the great West Indian teams of the previous three decades.

England have pulverised their opponents with a barrage of pace. Stephen Harmison, Simon Jones, Matthew Hoggard and Andrew Flintoff have battered the West Indies batsmen into a state of submission.

However, it is not only on the field that Michael Vaughan is proving to be a ruthless leader. After winning the first three Test matches in this series, it would have been easy for England to pick the same team for a fourth consecutive game. But this is not Vaughan's style and the England selectors have dropped Chris Read and given the Kent wicketkeeper, Geraint Jones, his Test debut.

"Chris Read has kept well but he has not scored the amount of runs we would have hoped for," Vaughan said, explaining the decision of the selectors. "He has had eight games of cricket but he is yet to contribute with the bat. Geraint Jones is a very impressive character. He has been knocking on the door all winter and stood out with the bat in our three-day game in Barbados. He deserves his chance and I am excited about seeing him play."

Jones' journey to England cricketer has been both colourful and long. The 27-year-old was born to Welsh parents in Kundiawa, Papua New Guinea, and brought up in Queensland, Australia. It was here that he learned his trade before travelling to England to play first-class cricket three years ago.

He made an immediate impact at Kent, scoring 886 runs at an average of 44 last summer. Performances like these have led to him being recognised as the best batsman among England's wicketkeepers and it is his potential to score runs batting at No 7 which has resulted in his inclusion.

"Geraint will get exactly the same opportunities as Read," Vaughan said. "He will start against the Kiwis during the summer. Only time will tell whether his glovework is as good as Read's but from what we have seen he is very capable behind the stumps. The best teams in the world have their No 7 scoring hundreds and this is what we want to be."

Read may not be the only England player to miss out in Antigua after it was revealed that Ashley Giles is struggling with a bug. The left-arm spinner failed to practise yesterday and Gareth Batty waits for an unexpected chance to show his worth. The Worcestershire all-rounder played in four of England's Tests against Bangladesh and Sri Lanka before Christmas with only limited success.

After being pummelled in Jamaica, Trinidad and Barbados, Brian Lara's side will be pleased to be at a ground which brings back happier memories. Only 18 Test matches have been played at this small, noisy ground but this has not prevented several records from being set here. The first came from the bat of Sir Viv Richards in 1986 when Antigua's favourite son smashed the fastest Test century on his home ground. The "master blaster" flogged a hapless England attack for a 56-ball hundred.

It was also at this venue that Lara scored 375 against England in 1994 and the West Indies chased down the record fourth-innings score of 418 against Australia last year.

Andy Roberts, the former West Indies fast bowler, is the groundsman at the Recreation Ground but he rarely produces a surface that helps his breed. His aim, like all groundsmen in the Caribbean, is to produce a pitch containing pace and bounce. This one looks set to start damp, which will offer the seamers some early assistance.

There is a dark band on a good length at the Pavilion End which will put a smile on the bowlers' faces and tempt the captain to bowl first should he win the toss. But the seamers will have to make the most of it during the morning because this pitch will flatten out into an excellent batting strip.

While England can relax, the West Indies are once again under huge pressure. England are yet to win a Test match here but the home side are the team with plenty to play for.

England (from): * M P Vaughan (Yorkshire), M E Trescothick (Somerset), M A Butcher (Surrey), N Hussain (Essex), G P Thorpe (Surrey), A Flintoff (Lancashire), Ý G O Jones (Kent), A F Giles (Warwickshire), M J Hoggard (Yorkshire), S P Jones (Glamorgan), S J Harmison (Durham), G J Batty (Worcestershire).

West Indies (from): *B C Lara, C H Gayle, R O Hinds, R R Sarwan, S C Joseph, D R Smith, D Ganga, ÝR D Jacobs, R L Powell, T L Best, C D Collymore, P T Collins, F H Edwards.

Umpires: D L Hair (Aus) and Aleem Dar (Pak).

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