Series sweep in the offing as Windies look to emulate bygone era
Facing up to hostile spells of fast bowling, being flayed to all parts of the ground and suffering damaging batting collapses - England's tour of the West Indies has been like stepping into a time machine.
After a series draw in 1974, England endured a dismal run in the Caribbean, managing just three Test wins in their next five tours as West Indies dominated.
This current Windies crop is a far cry from the star-studded line-up of that era, but they have been mightily impressive. As for England, their pre-series status as favourites arguably makes this dismal defeat all the more deflating, particularly in an Ashes year.
Two heavy losses have preceded the start of the third and final Test in St Lucia on Saturday, meaning the visitors are playing solely for pride while West Indies - without suspended captain Jason Holder due to slow over-rates - are seeking a first series sweep of England since 1986.
THE SERIES SO FAR
It is difficult to decide which was the more resounding victory for the home side. The first Test in Barbados saw England routed for 77 in the first innings and the Windies made a mockery of that total in their second innings, Holder hitting an unbeaten 202 in an unbroken seventh-wicket stand worth 295 with Shane Dowrich (116 not out).
After going on to win the opener by a mammoth 381 runs, West Indies were similarly ruthless in the second Test in Antigua, bowling their opponents out for 187 and 132. That left a paltry victory target of 14, brought up without loss in just 13 deliveries thanks to a John Campbell six over midwicket.
With Holder absent, Kraigg Brathwaite will lead the side for the fifth time but this will be the first occasion he has done so on home soil. The Windies added all-rounder Keemo Paul to their squad and it remains to be seen if right-arm quick Oshane Thomas will be given a Test debut.
For England, Ben Stokes (heel) will be assessed and should he make it, Sam Curran appears likely to make way for Mark Wood. Wicketkeeper Ben Foakes has been dropped and Keaton Jennings returns, meaning Jonny Bairstow will take the gloves and could drop back down from number three.
A tough nets session in St Lucia for the lads! pic.twitter.com/DgyHXzqq6u— England Cricket (@englandcricket) February 7, 2019
THEY SAID WHAT?
"This series win is a great achievement for us." - Windies paceman Shannon Gabriel. "Thinking back about last year when we lost 2-0 in Bangladesh, we were all hurting. Thankfully, we stuck together and we came out and showcased our talents. This series win has been great and I'm really pleased to be part of it. We have great confidence and we are definitely looking to make it 3-0. We're not just going for the win, we're also playing for the people of the Caribbean and we are also playing for points to move up the Test rankings."
"We've learnt a lot of lessons over the first two games, we could have done things slightly differently." - England skipper Joe Root, speaking to BBC Sport. "We had great success in Sri Lanka and it's not quite materialised here, whether that's down to selection or how poorly we've played in parts, you have to see it for what it is. We've got to make sure we give a very good account of ourselves and the guys given that opportunity take that responsibility and put in a really big performance for their country."
- England will be out to avoid losing three Test matches on the bounce against Windies for the first time since March 1994.
- The Windies have a chance to record a third Test win in a single series against England for the first time since 1998; victory in this game will mark the first time since 1986 that they've won every Test in a series against England (5-0).
- The Windies have been involved in six Test matches at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium in St Lucia, four of which have ended in draws (W1, L1), including their last Test here in June 2018 against Sri Lanka.
- Joe Root has failed to score a fifty in his last six innings, and failure to do so in both knocks in St Lucia will make this the longest stretch of his career.
- Shannon Gabriel has taken 17 Test wickets at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium, five more than anybody else. His Test-best haul of 13-121 came at this venue last year against Sri Lanka.