Big picture – Final throes for 50-overs in 2023
Ding and then dong. Punch and then counterpunch. The series set up for a decider in Bridgetown. England found their feet after being wobbled in the first game but West Indies can still come back off the ropes with the aim of landing a knockout blow under the Kensington Oval floodlights this weekend.
Buttler described himself afterwards as “fed up” with his lack of runs, and you suspect he would be similarly dischuffed if his team were to let the momentum slip again. England have lost 11 of 22 completed ODIs this calendar year, and will not play the format again until September 2024. Taking the series spoils would scarcely make up for the disappointment of the World Cup but it would at least mean they can put 50-over cricket to bed with a mug of cocoa before thoughts to the T20s and another looming title defence.
West Indies LWLWL (last five completed ODIs, most recent first)
In the spotlight – Phil Salt and Alzarri Joseph
Phil Salt has been the coming man – and a man in a hurry – for England in limited-overs cricket for a couple of years, but he is yet to fully nail himself on as the natural successor to Jason Roy. Salt has the highest batting strike-rate (134.27) of anyone to have scored 500-plus ODI runs, and the method he employs at the top of the order is perfectly attuned to the way England want to get back to playing. But, after scoring a maiden hundred in the Netherlands last year, he has managed just one half-century in his last 11 innings. A hefty contribution to underline his status before England turn their thoughts back to T20 would be timely. West Indies’ new-ball bowling has come under as-Salt in both games, and it has needed the introduction of spin to calm things down. At 27, Alzarri Joseph is the most experienced member of this attack and, newly appointed as Hope’s vice-captain, he carries a weight of extra responsibility during this series. He bowled better than figures of 1 for 65 in the first game suggest, but was manhandled during the opening exchanges in the second ODI – a three-over spell of 0 for 38 setting the tone for England to race away. With Oshane Thomas playing international cricket for the first time in two years and Romario Shepherd more of an all-round option, West Indies need Joseph to be their cutting edge.
Team news – Pope to pop in?
West Indies were unchanged in Antigua but could look to stiffen the batting by bringing in Kjorn Ottley for his first appearance since 2021. Roston Chase offers an allrounder option on his home ground. West Indies (probable): 1 Alick Athanaze, 2 Brandon King, 3 Keacy Carty/Kjorn Ottley, 4 Shai Hope (capt & wk), 5 Shimron Hetmyer, 6 Sherfane Rutherford, 7 Romario Shepherd, 8 Yannic Cariah, 9 Alzarri Joseph, 10 Gudakesh Motie, 11 Oshane Thomas England, too, have stuck with the same XI and might see little reason to tinker for the deciding match – otherwise Ollie Pope, ostensibly in the Caribbean to continue his rehab from a shoulder injury, and John Turner would perhaps be pushing harder for debuts in the format. Jofra Archer also trained with England on Friday but won’t be in contention. England (probable): 1 Will Jacks, 2 Phil Salt, 3 Zak Crawley, 4 Ben Duckett, 5 Harry Brook, 6 Jos Buttler (capt & wk), 7 Liam Livingstone, 8 Sam Curran, 9 Brydon Carse, 10 Rehan Ahmed, 11 Gus Atkinson.
Pitch and conditions
The surface at Kensington Oval tends to offer a bit of something for everyone, though rain during the build-up might assist the bowlers. In the last four years, six of the ten ODIs played in Bridgetown have seen the team batting first bowled out for less than 200 – but prior to that, it was the scene of England’s record ODI chase, after West Indies racked up 360 for 8. The forecast for Saturday is clear.