England, Weather Forecast
Jason Holder and Joe Root. (Credits: Web)

We have to hand it to England and the West Indies. Though they are not the best teams going around, they will fight tooth and nail against one another every time they clash. And cricket’s comeback could not have begun more desirably as both sides put on breakneck displays so far for the coveted Wisden Trophy. At the Old Trafford, the two teams will also dedicate to the Ruth-Strauss Foundation, which raises money for families sustaining the death of a parent from cancer.

Also Read: Waqar Younis Hints At Playing Two Spinners In Tests In England

It is a trend that has continued for England since the 2019 Ashes. They need a kickup to their backside that they often get from their lacklustre batting performances in the first Test of the series.

England underwent the same experience in the 2019 Ashes series, the New Zealand tour, and the South African tour. While against Australia and New Zealand they could not win, the Brits tasted success against the Proteas.

The same happened in Manchester as the hosts bounced back from their tight yet stunning loss in Southampton. And much is attributed to the brilliance, incredibility, and breathtaking efforts of Ben Stokes across all facets.

Stokes’ captaincy experience might not have yielded the desired outcome not only in terms of match results but also performances. However, that was a tipping point for the stellar show in Manchester.

Ben Stokes
Ben Stokes [Photo-Twitter]
The 29-year old’s ever-changing method to the game’s situation requires never-changing adjectives to define it. A barbaric and brutal approach in the second innings followed Stokes’ cautious and measured knock in the first as England defied the weather conditions to snatch a win. His indefatigable spell of bowling across both the innings not only inspired wickets but also bogged down West Indies’ spirit.

And perhaps that was enough to take him to the top of the all-rounder’s rankings in Tests too and number three amongst batsmen. While Stokes held the chunk of England romping to a win, the foundation was not built on his contributions alone. The phenomenon that Dom Sibley produced was a textbook Test match innings that England needed to complement Stokes’ sporadical aggression during their 260-run stand.

At the same time, Stuart Broad reinstated his importance as Joe Root’s go-to bowler by striking in the first innings with the second new-ball to leave the visitors in tatters. Broad equally impacted England for the better in the fourth innings, plucking three wickets, plucking three wickets, two of which arrived with the fresh cherry.

And one should blindside the inroads made out of nowhere by Chris Woakes and Sam Curran, forcing the West Indian batsmen to get stuck at the crease, leading to their dismissal.

Sam Curran
Sam Curran [Photo-Twitter]
Yet, surrounding their momentum, the English camp has some soul-searching to do regarding what bowling attack to the field. With all six pacers available, the home side does not have fresh legs but do have ample experience and potency. The current attack might have made them themselves undroppable; however, England’s rotation policy is equally indispensable in light of three more Tests after this.

In contrast, West Indies have a more significant cause of concern after the harsh realities kicked in. At some point, The Caribbeans’ brittle batting line-up was going to face the challenges against the experienced bowling attack. The English fielders were not going to drop chances as they did in Southampton that was significant in their victory.

Across both the innings, Stokes’ bouncer barrage was their innings’ turning point and they looked entirely at sea against the new ball. Furthermore, they lacked the adequate foot movement, committing themselves to play in the back foot when required to lunge forward. Amongst the lot, Shai Hope and John Campbell’s spots are in danger, as signalled by coach Phil Simmons.

England vs West Indies - 3rd Test 2020, Preview: Series Back In The Balance As Familiar Foes Take It Down To The Wire
Shai Hope [Photo-Getty]
Another one of West Indies’ concerns entails their batsmen failing to convert their half-centuries into three figures. Arguably, the tourists need one of their batsmen put on a rearguard as Sibley did in either one of the innings. At the Old Trafford on a slow and sluggish deck, the batsmen need to dig in deep as the bowlers have in competing with England.

Playing combinations:

England:

England
England won the second Test by 113 runs (Credits: Twitter)

England’s batting line-up looks unlikely to undergo any change. However, the English management has asserted they need to deal with their quicks judiciously to avoid any fitness or form concerns. While the bowling attack that played in Manchester might have been very impenetrable, they cannot remain confident of their spots.

The home side has the chance to unleash one of the most successful pairs of fast bowlers, Stuart Broad and James Anderson as coach Chris Silverwood desired to field the strongest attack. The beleaguered paceman Jofra Archer stays in the frame for a comeback while it is hard to ignore the impact made by Chris Woakes and Sam Curran in the second Test.

Predicted XI: Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler, Chris Woakes/Sam Curran/Jofra Archer, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, James Anderson

West Indies:

West Indies
West Indies vs England (Credits: Twitter)

As already mentioned, Phil Simmons has strongly indicated that batting changes in the top-order loom in the wake of their unimpressive performance in Manchester. Simmons is likely to have a look in the reserves as 22-year old Joshua de Silva and Shayne Moseley wait in the wings.

They might take the place of Campbell and Hope, who have only managed 57 and 52 runs respectively so far. In contrast, de Silva crafted an unbeaten 189 in the second intra-squad warm-up game. On the other hand, Moseley has a first-class experience of 28 games with ten fifties and three tons. Their bowlers have also borne plenty of workloads; however, are anticipated to retain their spots for the finale.

Predicted XI: Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell/Shayne Moseley, Shai Hope/Joshua de Silva, Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Jermaine Blackwood, Shane Dowrich (wk), Jason Holder (c), Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph

Pitch report:

The Old Trafford pitch assisted the fast bowlers early in the innings in the second Test. However, the deck transformed as a slow and sluggish one as the match proceeded. Hence, the players could expect the same in the third Test.

Weather report:

England vs West Indies - 3rd Test 2020, Preview: Series Back In The Balance As Familiar Foes Take It Down To The Wire
The Old Trafford Cricket Ground. (Credits: Twitter)

The weather conditions are anticipated to remain overcast for the entire duration of the match. If not rains for the whole five days, the climate would most likely stay overcast. On the second day, the forecast for showers is at 79%, the most for the game.

Head to head:

Played – 159
Won by England – 50
Won by West Indies – 58
Draw – 51

Stats that matter:

3 – Kemar Roach needs three wickets to get to 200 Test wickets. He will be the first West Indian since Curtly Ambrose to do so.

84 – Joe Root needs 84 runs to surpass Ian Bell’s tally of 7727 runs. By doing so, he will climb to the eighth spot for the most number of Test runs for England.

West Indies last won at the Old Trafford back in 1988.

Match prediction:

The momentum undoubtedly stays with England after they defied everything to win the second Test. While the hosts remain the favourites to reclaim the Wisden Trophy, they must be wary of taking Jason Holder’s men lightly.

Also Read: James Anderson Hopeful Of Partnering Stuart Broad For Series-Decider Against West Indies