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There could hardly be a greater gulf in expectations as West Indies and England meet for the last time before they head to Bangladesh for World Twenty20. West Indies have done enough to encourage expectations that they can put up a powerful defence of the trophy they won in similar conditions in Sri Lanka 17 months ago, whereas England’s chances are held to be as poor as those of the football team heading for their own World Cup in Brazil in a few months’ time.
England, after five successive T20 defeats, could turn to an unlikely saviour. Ian Bell has not played a Twenty20 international since January 2011, but expectations are high that he will take part in England’s final warm-up match, even if his coach, Ashley Giles, has warned that he is not quite ready after being with the squad for only a few days.
England have been overcome by West Indies’ greater weight of stroke in their defeats in the first two matches of this three-match series, and Bell, a slight figure with no penchant for six-hitting, is not about to change that, but he is regarded as one of England’s most skilful players of spin, and that talent is in short supply.
We must wait to see whether Bell, called up to replace the injured Joe Root, can make good use of his experience — almost 100 Tests and approaching 150 ODIs – in the shortest format, but for all his ability, his inclusion after being ignored so long seems to illustrate England’s desperation for any sort of stability at the top of the order rather than a conviction that they have alighted on a new super-powered approach.
With the series already won, it would be a surprise if West Indies gambled on the fitness of Sunil Narine for the final match. Far better to rest him for the matches that matter.
Johnson Charles and Andre Fletcher are still awaiting a chance in the top order and, as well as the top five have played, there must be a temptation to rest Dwayne Smith and give one of them some match time.
West Indies (possible) 1 Chris Gayle, 2 Dwayne Smith, 3 Marlon Samuels, 4 Lendl Simmons, 5 Dwayne Bravo, 6 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 7 Darren Sammy (capt), 8 Andre Russell, 9 Krishmar Santokie, 10 Ravi Rampaul, 11 Samuel Badree
Moeen Ali did not bowl in the second match and did not cover himself in glory with the bat; he seems the obvious man to stand down if England give Ian Bell a run.
That switch might also lead England to strengthen their bowling by substituting Ben Stokes for the struggling Luke Wright.
It is only conjecture, but now that the series is lost, why not give Chris Jordan a first international appearance in his native island? It would seem churlish not to.
England (possible) 1 Alex Hales, 2 Michael Lumb, 3 Ian Bell, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Jos Buttler (wk), 6 Ravi Bopara, 7 Ben Stokes, 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 James Tredwell, 10 Chris Jordan, 11 Stephen Parry