England under pressure after dropping in-form James Anderson
Andrew Strauss' England side must beat West Indies in the final Test, or questions will be raised about James Anderson's omission
England must win the third and final Test against the West Indies on Friday after taking the decision to drop their fully fit and in-form strike bowler James Anderson.
The England Cricket Board announced on Sunday that Anderson would not be part of the squad for the Edgbaston Test.
The move sparked huge debate as to whether the ECB were right to drop Anderson – ranked the third best bowler in the world – for what would have been his 71st Test cap in order to preserve his fitness with a long summer of Test cricket ahead.
Captain Andrew Strauss insisted on Thursday that he is confident the England selectors have made the right call.
“Jimmy Anderson’s missed out on this one, with good reason,” the 35-year-old told Sky Sports.
“I think the idea of rotating and resting is that you end up then playing more – not less. The last thing we want is someone to be playing to an extent they’re dead on their feet and then get injured and are out for months.”
Anderson was disappointed not to be picked and if, weather permitting, England fail to secure a whitewash then the decision will be unforgivable.
One thing is for sure though, Anderson’s replacements are raring to go and certainly up to the challenge of international cricket.
Either Middlesex’s Steven Finn or Durham’s Graham Onions will take the place of Anderson, and both players have been amongst the wickets for their counties this summer and will be hoping to stake a claim as the premier back-up bowler, should any of the current contingent pick up an injury for the South Africa series.
Wicketkeeper Steven Davies has been called up as cover for Matt Prior, who is suffering from an eye infection.
It is an indication that the management are clearly not ready to hand Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow a chance behind the stumps despite the 22-year-old keeping wicket regularly for England Lions and his county.
Bairstow suffered a torrid time with the bat in the previous Test at Trent Bridge against some short, ferocious bowling from Kemar Roach. The call up of the 25-year-old Surrey glove-man suggests the England hierarchy are keen not to burden Bairstow with too much responsiblity in only his third Test match.
Meanwhile, the West Indies may give a Test debut to spin bowler Sunil Narine. The Trinidadian has come into the squad after strike bowler Kemar Roach was ruled out for the remainder of the series with a shin injury.
The 24-year-old has only played eight one-day internationals and two Twenty20 matches for his country, but has been bamboozling batsman in the Indian Premier League for the Kolkata Knight Riders.
However, the tourists are now without Roach and seamer Shannon Gabriel – who also missed the last Test.
With the weather forecast looking characteristically gloomy the Caribbean side may struggle to bowl England out twice.
If Darren Sammy’s team can pull of a victory it would be a remarkable feat. For England, victory is expected and any less would raise some serious questions about the decision to rest their best bowler.
England squad for third Test v West Indies
Andrew Strauss (Middlesex, captain), Jonny Bairstow (Yorkshire), Ian Bell (Warwickshire), Tim Bresnan (Yorkshire), Stuart Broad (Nottinghamshire), Alastair Cook (Essex), Steven Finn (Middlesex), Graham Onions (Durham), Kevin Pietersen (Surrey), Matt Prior (Sussex, wk), Steven Davies (Surrey wk) Graeme Swann (Nottinghamshire), Jonathan Trott (Warwickshire).