Vaughan eager to keep pressure on fragile West Indies

Click to follow
The Independent Online

Everything points towards another England victory. Michael Vaughan's team are playing with purpose and confidence. They are unbeaten in the Caribbean and the thousands of England supporters who have travelled here are already talking about a whitewash.

Everything points towards another England victory. Michael Vaughan's team are playing with purpose and confidence. They are unbeaten in the Caribbean and the thousands of England supporters who have travelled here are already talking about a whitewash.

Their opponents, meanwhile, are in disarray. The West Indies captain, Brian Lara, and the coach, Gus Logie, do not get on and the lack of communication from the management to the players is dreadful. There is an apathetic approach to the home side's play and they cannot wait for this series to end.

So what are we to expect here - a seven or eight-wicket victory for England by tea on the fourth day? This would be a perfect way for Vaughan, who only needs a draw to become the first England captain to win a Test series in the Caribbean since 1968, to wrap things up.

"We are going out to win this game," Vaughan said. "We set out to win every game. I cannot see playing for a draw working here in the Caribbean. We will be trying to play in exactly the same manner and with the same spirit we did in the first two games. We are a very focused group of players and our aim is to go out and play good cricket. If we can do that, we know what the result will be. Four-nil is achievable but it is not something we have talked about."

A more batsman-friendly pitch should mean Vaughan's bowlers have to work harder for their wickets but if England can hit the West Indies hard on day one and remove Lara cheaply for the fifth time in this series, it is difficult to see them putting up too strong a fight.

All this sounds wonderful to England supporters but history suggests that it is dangerous to make predictions at the Kensington Oval. In 1994, no one expected England to win what turned out to be a historic Test match here. Michael Atherton's team were in a similar state then as the West Indies are now. They were 3-0 down in the series and had just been bowled out for 46 in Trinidad.

It was also at this venue that the West Indies pulled off one of the most remarkable victories in recent times, against Australia. Chasing 311, the West Indies were on 105 for 5 before Lara took them home with a brilliant, unbeaten 153.

England remain unchanged for the third consecutive Test but Vaughan acknowledges that certain members of the batting line-up need to contribute more. "Tres [Marcus Trescothick] and I have not got us off to great starts and this has to change," Vaughan said. "The middle order have got us out of a couple of tricky situations so far and more is required from us."

More will also be required from Ashley Giles, who has had little to do in the first two Tests. A combination of poor bowling, aggressive batting and Stephen Harmison has limited the spinner's input to 22 overs. Giles will not enjoy the short boundaries which lie square of the wicket but the nature of the pitch should mean he plays an key role.

The pitch is no longer the quick, bouncy surface of the Seventies, Eighties and early Nineties and pace is not the only option when a captain selects his side. Slow bowlers have played a leading role in recent games and on a couple of occasions the West Indies have even selected a specialist spinner.

The Barbados Cricket Association has attempted to buck this trend and the pitches were relaid two years ago. On the evidence of last year's Test against Australia this has made little difference. Steve Waugh, the then Australia captain, described the track as the slowest he had ever played Test cricket on, and the visiting leg-spinner Stuart MacGill took nine wickets.

The locals want it to be quick because it serves up the kind of cricket they enjoy most. And in an effort to satisfy these fans, the groundsman has given the track a green tinge this time.

"It will be good if the ball goes through," Vaughan said. "We are pretty fortunate that we have all bases covered on the bowling front. If it swings we have Matthew Hoggard. If there is any bounce there it brings Steve Harmison into play, and if it goes low and skiddy we have got Simon Jones. It looks a decent pitch. It has a good covering of grass on it but the history of the pitch here suggests there are always a few runs scored."

England have no reason to change the game plan which has proved so successful thus far. Vaughan will continue to bombard the fragile West Indies batting with his pacemen, and the challenge for the hosts is to show some fight in the face of such hostility.

The West Indies will wait until this morning before they decide on their final XI but Devon Smith looks as though he will miss out. The opener, who has scored the only century in this series, injured his finger in practice. Smith's place would go to Daren Ganga, a Trinidadian who scored two hundreds against Australia 12 months ago. Fidel Edwards' recovery from a back injury will give the attack greater firepower, and Lara hinted that the left-arm spin of Ryan Hinds may gain him selection ahead of Dwayne Smith.

England: M P Vaughan (capt), M E Trescothick, M A Butcher, N Hussain, G P Thorpe, A Flintoff, C M W Read (wkt), A F Giles, S P Jones, M J Hoggard, S J Harmison.

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

Umpires: D Hair (Aus) and R Koertzen (SA).

Comments