If somebody had told you before the start of the series that England and the West Indies would be locked at 1-1 with a Test to play, you might well have questioned their judgment – if they'd told you the same thing after the tourists three-day thrashing in the first Test at Edgbaston, you might well have questioned their sanity.
However, following West Indies' remarkable comeback at Headingley, here we are. Suddenly those who were lamenting this one-sided series being drawn out over three games have the prospect of a series-deciding Test on their hands.
For the first time in history a Lord’s Test will begin in September, as England’s seemingly never-ending summer of cricket continues, and against all the odds the final Test of the summer is very much all to play for, England are suddenly facing the unlikely prospect of losing a series to a West Indies side who looked beyond hopeless scarcely two weeks ago.
While the men from Caribbean were immeasurably improved at Headingley, it would still be a big surprise if England did not come roaring back into things at Lord’s with the sort of dominant performance that was expected from them in the second Test.
The strength of the West Indies performance in their last outing has at least shown that it would be foolhardy to write off their chances completely at Lord’s, although for lightning to strike twice for the tourists, much would have to be expected of the trio of batsmen who have shone for them so far.
Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite were the rightfully vaunted stars of that surprise Headingley win and sit first and third in the series run-making charts as a consequence, however the perhaps less-celebrated third member of the triumvirate is Jermaine Blackwood, currently the fifth highest run scorer in the series, and a man whose commitment to swashbuckling at almost any opportunity has made him a valuable asset for his team.
If Hope, Brathwaite and Blackwood can all contribute once again, and perhaps receive a bit of assistance from one of their rather underperforming teammates in the process, then we have seen that the West Indies are certainly capable of making a decent enough total – and if Shannon Gabriel and Kemar Roach can maintain their standards with the ball, then they could certainly put England in a spot of bother.
England however will be determined to make amends for their defeat at Headingley, a first home series defeat to the West Indies since 1988 would have been unthinkable at the start of the summer and they will be in absolutely no mood for it to become a reality at Lord’s, their last Test before Ashes.
Question marks remain about several spots in the batting line-up, with Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan hoping to nail down their places ahead of the Ashes this winter and Tom Westley being given one last chance to fight for his immediate Test future having made just 19 runs in the series.
Elsewhere however, Alastair Cook and Joe Root have been their usual impressive selves, while Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali have also chipped in with useful scores.
It is with the ball however that England would hope to dominate the West Indies, with James Anderson three wickets away from 500 Test wickets and Stuart Broad buoyed by recently becoming England’s second-highest wicket taker of all time.
Chris Woakes was a little bit disappointing on his return to the side at Headingley and so given how well Toby Roland-Jones has started his Test career, it is not a total surprise that England have opted to bring in the latter at Lord’s – particularly as it is his home ground.
England may have toyed with resting some players in order to blood Mason Crane but ultimately they have decided that the young Hampshire leg-spinner will have to wait a bit longer for his Test debut, which is perhaps a bit of a shame, but is testament to the strength of the West Indies performance in the last Test and all said and done a fairly minor disappointment, particularly when set against the prospect of Thursday’s series-deciding game.
Both sides go into the final Test of the summer with something to play for and ultimately you couldn't ask for much more than that.
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