England in must-win match to avert early WC exit
Chennai: Their morale low after a shock loss to Bangladesh, an injury-hit England take on the West Indies in a crucial group B match here on Thursday requiring an outright win to keep their World Cup hopes alive.
England have endured a roller-coaster World Cup so far having won two games, including the humdinger against South Africa, holding India to a tie but their loss to minnows Ireland and Bangladesh have made this one a must-win bout even to be able to think of quarterfinal qualification.
Presently they are in the fifth position with just five points. With four teams competing for the three quarterfinal places from the group after South Africa booked their berth with a clinical win over the Ireland on Tuesday, even a win will not suffice for England and they have to await the results of the match between India and West Indies and then pray South Africa defeat Bangladesh.
India, with seven points, are in the second place while the West Indies and Bangladesh have six points apiece.
But English cricketers are insisting that the team always brings out the best in crunch games and can still win the World Cup.
Coming into the tournament as underdogs, the West Indies, led by Darren Sammy, have a slight edge having won all their last three games after the loss to South Africa, but they have not yet been fully tested in the ties having played against lowly-ranked opponents.
They have their last big match against India here on Sunday. Inconsistency has been the hallmark of England`s campaign so far as is evident from their bouncy journey and their woes have only compounded with doubts over the fitness of Strauss and key strike bowler Graeme Swann, who kept away from practice on Tuesday after recovering from a stomach bug.
Batsman Jonathan Trott, however, has expressed hope that they will be fit for the vital match tomorrow. Any setback on that front will badly hit the English as the side has already suffered two pull outs (hernia-hit Kevin Pieterson and Stuart Broad) midway.
Though the English players, including Strauss, have been discounting fatigue of a long season as a reason for their inconsistency so far, but it does seem to have impacted them.
The current World Twenty20 champions` hopes to lift the elusive ODI World Cup suffered a severe a jolt when they lost to Bangladesh in a closely-fought encounter in Chittagong.
The humiliating defeat came after England showed remarkable resilience to bounce back from the jaws of defeat against South Africa in a thrilling match here, which also raised questions about the team`s ability to tackle slow tracks where the ball does not come on to the bat. This was clearly evident in their last match against South Africa here when Robin Peterson opened the attack for the Proteas and England were reduced to 3 for 15.
But, Broad and Anderson, who have otherwise had a horrendous outing in the tournament, came to the rescue to bowl out South Africa in the low-scoring tie.
The West Indies have in their ranks three spinners including Sulieman Benn, who shares the second spot in the highest wicket-takers list with 12 scalps, and he could torment the English batsmen on the Chepauk wicket.
Their second left-arm spinner Nikita Miller and all-rounder Chris Gayle, who bowls off-breaks and is said to be fit for Thursday`s tie, add more zing to their spin attack.
However, the England batsmen have done well in other matches with Strauss and Trott, who has four half centuries in five games, leading from the front.
Eoin Morgan, who replaced Pieterson, has straightaway found his form hitting a fluent 63 against Bangladesh bringing intensity in the middle order.
Bowling has been a major worry for Strauss as the team has conceded 1,351 runs, second-highest after Canada`s 1,370 in its five matches, with James Anderson bearing the brunt.
Tim Bresnan shone against India, but the English have to be more accurate to stop the likes of big-hitting Kieron Pollard and Gayle.
England might be tempted to go with two spinners and drop Anderson, who has given away 282 runs in 43 overs for an uneconomical 6.55, taking just four wickets at an average of 70.50 in the five games.
However, the composition of the playing eleven on the morrow would depend on fitness of Strauss and Swann. The West Indies also have an advantage with Ottis Gibson, a former bowling coach for England, joining their side as the head coach and Pollard has yesterday said it was for the players to expose the weaknesses of Englishmen.
But England can take some heart from their head-to-head record against West Indies with the Caribbeans just managing to win once in their five World Cup encounters so far.
The solitary success came way back in 1979 at Lords when the Clive Loyd men scored a 92-run win. With the pitch is said to be assisting spin as the match progresses, it would be a daunting task for the team that bats second.
The Teams (from): England: Andrew Strauss (capt), Eoin Morgan, Jonathan
Trott, Ian Bell, Paul Collingwood, Ravi Bopara, Matt Prior, Tim Bresnan, Graeme Swann, James Anderson, Michael Yardy, Ajmal Shahzad, James Tredwell, Luke Wright, Chris Tremlett.
West Indies: Darren Sammy (capt), Chris Gayle, Devon Smith, Darren Bravo, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Kieron Pollard, Devon Thomas, Sulieman Benn, Nikita Miller, Kemar Roach, Kirk Edwards, Ravi Rampaul, Andre Russell, Devendra Bishoo.
Umpires: Asoka de Silva (SRI) and Steve Davis (AUS). TV umpire: Shavir Tarapore (IND). Match referee: Roshan Mahanama (SRI).