LONDON: The fight is on and Lord’s has become a do-or-die venue for England and the West Indies.
The home team was expected to wrap up the three-Test series against much-maligned West Indies last week at Headingley, but in an astonishing turnaround the visitors levelled the series at 1-1 in one of the most-exciting Tests in recent times.
After being totally embarrassed in the first Test the West Indies picked itself up and now stands on the verge of pulling one of the greatest series upsets in the decider at the home of cricket starting on Thursday.
England, of course, has its eyes on the Ashes series that starts on Nov. 23 in Brisbane and Lord’s offers the last opportunity for players to book a place on that flight to Australia.
For a team that got clobbered by an innings and 209 runs this revitalized Caribbean squad completed a fourth-innings chase by scoring 322 for five for that memorable five-wicket triumph. Who would have believed this would be possible from a team that lost 19 wickets on one day at Headingley? But the return of pace man Shannon Gabriel and the performances of Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite proved decisive. Hope, of course, became the first man to carve out two centuries at Headingley’s famous ground and Braithwaite fell painfully short by five runs of also posting a similar feat.
Fans will remember how the vibrant Calypso Kings dominated the game for close to two decades and injected colour and party atmosphere in every match and now fans hope that Jason Holder’s squad will bring back those heady memories.
While the critics concentrated on the West Indies’ remarkable victory, Joe Root’s team came away unscathed from criticism.
But on the other side of the world Australia came under heavy criticism after its first-ever Test defeat in Dhaka by Bangladesh.
Coach Darren Lehmann admitted the players were stung by the level of scorn the team endured. But what the Aussies don’t understand is that Bangladesh is no longer the poor cousin of international cricket and has now developed world-class players.
But the Aussies appear on course to salvage some pride in the final Test in Chittagong after reaching 225 for two at stumps on the second day on Tuesday in reply to Bangladesh’s 305. David Warner (86 not out), Steve Smith (58) and Peter Handscomb (69 not out) starred for the visitors in reply to the home team’s first innings total of 305 all out. Bangladesh’s hopes of a huge total were dashed by off-spinner Nathan Lyon as he finished with the superb figures of seven for 94. Bangladesh’s top scorers were Mushfiqur Rahim (68) and Sabbir Rahman (66).