England search for balance

Tourists consider five-man bowling attack for Trinidad

By Graeme Mair.   Last Updated: 06/03/09 8:45am

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Prior: could bat at number six on return from paternity leave

Prior: could bat at number six on return from paternity leave

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England are once again pondering the make up of their side ahead of the series decider against West Indies in Trinidad, starting on Friday.

W Indies v England - 5th Test
Trinidad, Mar 6-10
Watch live on Sky Sports 1/HD1 or via skysports.com's over-by-over commentary

"Drawing it is no good for us, so it's important that the selection we come to is the best way of winning a game of cricket."
Andrew Strauss Quotes of the week

The tourists trail 1-0 in the five-match series and require victory at the Queen's Park Oval to retain the Wisden Trophy, which they have held since 2000.

West Indies took the early initiative with an innings victory in the first Test in Jamaica and the series has subsequently featured an abandonment and two draws.

An unfit outfield at Antigua's Sir Viv Richards Stadium prompted the second Test to be scrapped on the first morning and the hasty addition of an extra match at the Antigua Recreation Ground.

The ARG hosted a minor classic as West Indies' last-wicket pair batted out 10 overs to secure a draw on the final evening.

And a fourth Test run-feast at the Kensington Oval - 1,628 runs scored for the loss 17 wickets - ensured West Indies retained their advantage and moved to the brink of a first Test series win anywhere for almost five years.

Result wicket

In contrast, the wicket at the Queen's Park is result-oriented - the last draw at the venue came 11 Tests ago in 1997 - leaving England with a tough decision on whether to sacrifice a batsman in order to facilitate a five-man bowling attack.

"We wanted to have another look at the wicket today, because obviously they've been doing a lot of rolling of it," said England captain Andrew Strauss on Thursday.

"But we have a fairly good idea of our team. I suppose fundamental to all of it is what is the best way of winning this game.

"Drawing it is no good for us, so it's important that the selection we come to is the best way of winning a game of cricket."

Wicketkeeper Matt Prior will return to the side at the expense of Tim Ambrose, even though Ambrose scored an unbeaten 76 and produced some tidy glovework in Barbados while his rival was away on paternity leave.

Prior averages 40.42 in 15 Tests and is well equipped to move up the order one place to bat at number six on a one-off basis for a must-win match.

Providing the pitch does not resemble a minefield, that appears a probable scenario and means either Owais Shah or Ravi Bopara will be dropped.

Shah is the incumbent number three and, despite averaging just 24.75 in four innings during the series, is likely to be shown some loyalty.

The alternative is to promote Bopara, fresh from his maiden Test century in Barbados, to first drop - a high-risk strategy given the question marks that remain over the 23-year-old's aggressive, bordering on reckless, shot selection.

The bowling attack will feature James Anderson, Stuart Broad and Graeme Swann alongside one - possibly two - others.

Amjad in contention

Kent paceman Amjad Khan is favourite to make his Test debut. The Copenhagen-born speedster will either come in as the fifth bowler, or replace the patently unfit Ryan Sidebottom should England stick with a four-man attack.

Sidebottom, struggling with a persistent Achilles injury, probably faces the axe either way.

An extra slow bowler - left-armer Monty Panesar or rookie leg-spinner Adil Rashid - would likely be preferred to Sidebottom should five bowlers be deemed necessary, while assistant coach Andy Flower appeared to rule out the possibility of Steve Harmison being recalled.

West Indies have named the same XI for the past three matches but are considering making two changes for the series climax.

Seam bowler Lionel Baker, the first international cricketer from Montserrat, could replace Daren Powell, while local boy Lendl Simmons is pressing for a debut in the middle order at Ryan Hinds' expense.

West Indies (from): C Gayle (capt), L Baker, S Benn, S Chanderpaul, F Edwards, R Hinds, B Nash, D Powell, D Ramdin (wkt), R Sarwan, L Simmons, D Smith, J Taylor

England (from): A Strauss (capt), T Ambrose (wkt), J Anderson, I Bell, R Bopara, S Broad, P Collingwood, A Cook, S Harmison, A Khan, M Panesar, K Pietersen, M Prior (wkt), A Rashid, O Shah, R Sidebottom, G Swann

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