Ed Hawkins previews the decider from Manchester from Friday and fears for a weary Windies...
"Holder will no doubt bitterly rue his decision to bowl first having won the toss in game two. His bowlers, stiff and sore, would have been flabbergasted"
England v West Indies
Friday 24 July 11:00
TV: live on Sky Sports
England at their strongest
England are poised to reclaim the Wisden Trophy after a dominant display in the second Test at Old Trafford. Even a whole day of rain couldn't dampen their fire.
Ben Stokes, cricket's personification of rocket fuel, seemed to be playing West Indies on his own at times. A magnificent 176 in the first innings of the match meant a total of 469 piled the pressure on to the West Indies.
If that innings was a study of discipline and technique, his 78 from 57 balls opening the batting in the second gave England the time and confidence to bowl out West Indies. Of course, he chipped in with two wickets as England won by 113.
Stokes can do it all and analysis that he's the best player in the world probably doesn't go far enough. He is one of a handful of truly great all-rounders.
He is, however, unlikely to bowl much due to injury. England would be wise to pick an extra seamer as cover, probably Sam Curran, which could mean Zak Crawley loses his place..
Jofra Archer, omitted for a bubble breach, should return as part of that team. And surely Stuart Broad, irrepressible, and James Anderson will join him. Jack Leach is probably unlucky not to displace Dom Bess, whose chutzpah is impressive but is still honing. Leach turns the ball away from West Indies' right-handers, Bess doesn't.
Possible XI R Burns, D Sibley, J Root, B Stokes, O Pope, J Buttler, S Curran, D Bess, J Archer, S Broad, J Anderson.
West Indies to make changes
It will be only 12 days since West Indies, full of calm menace and quiet self-assurance, took a 1-0 lead in Southampton when they take to the field for the denouement in Manchester. Alas, they're likely to look like a completely different outfit.
The toll on their bowling unit has been significant with Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph and Jason Holder bowling 284 overs between them. Only captain Holder is a certainty to play here.
Holder will no doubt bitterly rue his decision to bowl first having won the toss in game two. His bowlers, stiff and sore, would have been flabbergasted he passed up the opportunity for another day of rest and the chance to bowl last on a wearing surface. It looks like costing them the series.
Rahkeem Cornwall, the giant spinner, Raymon Reifer and Chemar Holder could form a new-look attack. There will probably be a change in the batting order, too. Opener John Campbell could lose his spot to Josh Da Silva, who stroked a ton in warm-up.
Possible XI K Brathwaite, J Da Silva, S Hope, S Brooks, R Chase, J Blackwood, S Dowrich, J Holder, R Cornwall, C Holder, R Reifer
Bat first, go big
The Old Trafford wicket played out as expected. It looked like a road in the first-innings before taking turn and, later, showing up some uneven bounce. More of the same can be expected from a strip a couple of wickets along the square.
The last five first-innings match scores (1-2 denote won by side batting first or sec-ond) now read: 469-1/497-1/362-1/589-1/152-1/527-d. Holder will surely bat first this time. It will be tough to lose with more than 350 on the board.
Draw is short
The match odds are almost as unrecognisable as the possible Windies XI. England are [1.85] and the tourists [11.50]. The reason for the shift? The weather. The draw is as skinny as [2.76].
Day one looks likely to be rain free, according to the Met Office. But Day Two might be a washout entirely. Intermittent showers are forecast for day three while day four is currently clear of rain. It's hardly the worst forecast we've seen.
Loathe to wager on weather, we'd be happy to lay the stalemate in-play at odds-on. Overs lost can be made up quite easily and the idea these two need a full five days of cricket to find a winner doesn't hold much water. We could well see this Windies line-up razed by England's bowlers in double-quick time.
Stokes all the rage
Stokes is 5/1 for consecutive man-of-the-match awards. He is also 7/2 for top England runscorer in the first-innings. Another success will be a rare threepeat. Joe Root is 3/1 favourite on that market while Archer is installed as 5/2 jolly for top England bowler.
If you subscribe to the view that the series has been dominated by the two all-rounders - Stokes and Holder - then the 12/1 that the West Indies captain takes the player gong might appeal.
Why back-to-back tests favour home teams. This week on: Cricket...Only Bettor
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l
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Lay the draw at [1.95] or shorter on day 1 or 2