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England v West Indies: 3rd Test preview

The Wisden Trophy will end Tuesday in either Joe Root or Jason Holder’s hands. Following England’s excellent showing in Manchester last week, the series with the West Indies is finely poised at 1-1.

The final XI

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Despite England announcing a 14-strong squad for Friday’s decider, we are actually none the wiser when it comes to the hosts’ selection. We do know that Dom Bess will play (provided England include a spinner), while the top seven looks set to be the same again.

It is, of course, in the seam-bowling department that the questions reside. All six of Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Sam Curran, Chris Woakes, and Mark Wood will be desperate to contribute, but it seems likely that only three will play. Exactly who England go for will depend on a couple of factors: the pitch and the players’ fitness. It will be fascinating to see whether Anderson and Broad play together this time with the series on the line; that would only leave one spot for the other four bowlers to fight for. Good luck, selectors!

Archer’s inclusion is, of course, notable following his omission last week, while there is also some uncertainty over how many overs Ben Stokes will be able to get through. He’s good enough to play just as a batsman, for sure, but any side is more complete when their number five can also play the role of fourth seamer.

The tourists

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As for the West Indies, their hands may be forced somewhat. Despite an excellent showing down in Southampton, Shannon Gabriel looked exhausted at Old Trafford last week. Alzarri Joseph also struggled to make too much of an impact, and one or two changes could be on the cards for the decider. Chemar Holder offers a like-for-like replacement for both of those two pacemen, while Rahkeem Cornwall provides a second spin-bowling option should the Windies elect to change tact slightly. Jason Holder and Kemar Roach are certain to be included and have both been outstanding throughout the series so far.

Predictions

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If England play as well as they did in the second Test, they should have too much for their opponents. First-innings runs will be key for both sides; if the Windies go big they could bat England out of the series, while a strong start by the hosts will pile the pressure on Holder’s men.

If the third Test is anything like the two that preceded it, then we’re in for another five days of superb cricket. The weather forecast is slightly ominous, but its somewhat temperamental nature has not, to this point, stolen the show.

England (predicted): Burns, Sibley, Crawley, Root (c), Stokes, Pope, Buttler, Bess, Archer, Broad, Anderson

West Indies (predicted): Campbell, Brathwaite, Hope, Brooks, Chase, Blackwood, Dowrich, Holder (c), Cornwall, Joseph, Roach