West Indies, England desperate for winning pitch in Grenada
West Indies and England meet for the potential decider of their three-match series on Thursday amid expectations of a pitch which will finally produce a result after the first two Tests in Antigua and Barbados fizzled out.
The placid surfaces at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium and Kensington Oval detracted significantly from the spectacle and tested the resolve of bowlers and batsmen to provide the type of attractive cricket worthy of the occasion.
Now, with the newly-minted Richards-Botham Trophy at stake at a venue where England won the last time a Test match was played in 2015, West Indies head coach Phil Simmons is encouraged by what he has seen of the playing surface.
"It has a light covering of grass. It looks hard. It looks level. It looks like a good cricket wicket," Simmons said Wednesday.
"I don't know what to expect from it, but it looks good."
West Indies are contemplating an adjustment to their batting line-up with attacking left-hander Kyle Mayers waiting in the wings to replace fellow-Barbadian Shamarh Brooks who has struggled to make an impact in four innings.
There is also the possibility of a debut for fast bowler Anderson Phillip based on an assessment of the fitness of young pacer Jayden Seales.
England will again be without Ollie Robinson as a nagging back injury sustained in the warm-up match ahead of the series in Antigua has flared up again.
There will be one change from the second Test though as Craig Overton, who fell ill the night before play got underway at Kensington Oval, coming back into the 11 at the expense off Matt Fisher.
Saqib Mahmood, who took four wickets in the match and kept the tourists interested in the prospects of victory on the final day last Sunday, retains his place in the team.
Mindful that two drawn Tests represent an improvement on the debacle of the last Ashes campaign, England captain Joe Root is hopeful that the expectation of a more sporting pitch will give his team the chance to close out the tour with a series-clinching triumph.
"I really hope we can take another step forward as a team and get across the line," he said.
"We've played the majority of the cricket up until now and it would be a great way to end the tour.
"The most pleasing thing is every game we've not had that nightmare session that's cost us a Test," Root added.
"We've looked at each individual session and each hour and looked to win each and every one of them."
England were heading towards a nightmare session at the start of the series when they slipped to 48 for four batting first in Antigua before Jonny Bairstow and the lower order engineered a recovery.
It is a situation Simmons hopes his team can re-create and finish the job on a more helpful pitch.
"Once the pitch is playing well and the situation dictates, I am sure the players will do what is necessary for the team," said the former international all-rounder.
"Early wickets by our bowlers and also a big opening partnership will be steps in the right direction."
A.M. de Leon--LGdM