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There is certainly some love affair between England, West Indies, and upsets in Cricket. Twice in recent times has West Indies have toppled England - which even the best in the business have struggled to achieve. With World Cup and Ashes just months away, the year couldn't have started in a worse way for England. They were dealt a 381-run defeat by West Indies in the opening test and will be looking for redemption when the two teams meet to play the second match of the series on 31st January at Sir Vivian Richards Cricket Stadium, Antigua. For West Indies, the upcoming game will be a chance to prove that their win in the opening game was not just a fluke and this Caribbean team is capable of more than just a couple of occasional triumphs.
West Indies took the cricketing world by surprise not just by the colossal victory they registered in the first match, but also the manner in which they achieved it. The Caribbean team was dominant on all four days of the match, something which they haven't done in recent times.
Despite such a confidence inflating win in the first match, West Indies will be cautious going into the second match. Consistency has been the last thing they've exhibited in recent times and that is one of the reasons this West Indies side isn't even remotely close to what they once used to be. In the last five years, West Indies defeated the top test playing nations six times and remarkably lost the subsequent encounter on five of those six occasions.
Their victory in the first match was set up by their incredible bowling with the new ball with Kemar Roach leading the attack. He was accurate, swung ball both ways, and troubled English batsmen with pace. Windies bowling made their slightly under par 289-run total appear humungous as they shot England out for a paltry total of 77. Roach was the pick of the bowlers and returned with the impressive figures of 17 for 5 in his 11 overs.
Another highlight of the match was the brilliant unbeaten 295-run partnership between Jason Holder and Shane Dowrich for the seventh wicket in the second innings. Jason Holder scored a scintillating double-hundred whereas Shane Dowrich scored a well-crafted century. After the declaration with England needing 629 runs to win, Roston Chase spun the web around the English batsmen and picked eight wickets in the second innings. In addition to his useful off-spin bowling, Chase has proven his utility with the bat as well. In the last four tests, he has two hundreds to his name - against India and Bangladesh, and West Indies will be banking on him to produce yet another match-winning performance.
Although they got the momentous win, all was not rosy for West Indies in the opening encounter. Their top-order batsmen struggled to set the ball rolling with the bat in the second innings. Furthermore, their opening bowlers failed to have any impact on gritty English openers in the second innings - something which they'd want to avoid in the upcoming matches.
Overall, West Indies clearly punched above their weight in the opening match and utilized the positions of advantage perfectly. However, they had a few wrinkled areas which they'll want to iron out before the important fixture and if they can do that, it won't be surprising if they end up repeating the result of the first test.
Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shai Hope, Darren Bravo, Roston Chase, Shimron Hetmyer, Shane Dowrich, Jason Holder, Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph, Shannon Gabriel.
Prior to their embarrassing defeat in the first test, England were going through a run which many teams have only dreamt of. They appeared to have covered all bases until they collided with the Caribbean force. Toss played a part in their loss, but not as much as the selection and the poor exhibition of batting they displayed on the second day of the match.
England's top-order was once again exploited, this time by West Indies, as no one apart from Joe Root looked comfortable at the crease. Unlike the times before where lower-order bailed them out of tricky situations, there were no signs of any partnership whatsoever in the first innings and consequently, the visitors were bowled out for 77.
English bowlers started off reasonably well in the second innings and had six Caribbean wickets down for a total of 120 runs. However, their bowlers hit a roadblock thereafter as Holder and Dowrich kept on piling runs which ended only after Holder declared the innings - which was 295 runs later.
On a surface which was supposed to assist seamers, England made a blunder selection mistake of playing two spinners and resting Stuart Broad in the first test. Their quick bowling lacked sharpness up front and spinners were not able to do the desired amount of damage. Broad is likely to walk back into the playing eleven, but with Antigua's surface known to assist spinners, it will be interesting to see if England decides to trim-down their spinner count in the upcoming match. It could also be Curran making way for Broad and Jack Leach coming in for Adil Rashid.
Keaton Jennings' vulnerabilities against quality pace bowling is something which England will be wary about. Joe Denly is available as Jennings cover, but it's highly unlikely that English management will rest Jenning especially after the runs he scored in Sri Lanka. Rory Burns' 84-run knock was a silver lining for England in the opening test, perhaps the only one. Overall, the English side which was looking flawless before the first test suddenly has plenty of problems to resolve and unless they want to see the repeat of the opening game, they'll have to resolve the most, if not all, and quickly.
Rory Burns, Joe Denly, Jonny Bairstow, JE Root, BA Stokes, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Ben Foakes, Sam Curran, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
With the surface likely to deteriorate over time and eventually assist spinners on fourth and fifth days, the captain winning the toss is likely to bat first.
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While this West Indies side is still a long way off the standards they once set, they are certainly improving and have results to back them. They're always fighting and difficult to defeat at home. However, West Indies have been in such positions before only to lose the advantage thereon. England, on the other hand, are a strong team and well and truly capable of scripting a comeback. They are a better-experienced side with the likes of Joe Root, Jos Buttler, and Ben Stokes, in their batting lineup. The return of Stuart Broad will strengthen their bowling attack. With a good bowling attack and ample experience in the side, England will script a comeback win at Antigua to level the series 1-1.
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