Nottingham: England will take an unbeatable lead in their three-match series against the West Indies if they win the second Test at Trent Bridge starting on Friday. And, after a five-wicket victory in the first Test at Lord's, few would bet against Andrew Strauss's number one-ranked side going 2-0 up in Nottingham.
The West Indies did take the first Test into the fifth day and twice had England wobbling as they pursued a modest target of 191. But England were only ever one decent partnership away from victory, which came courtesy of Alastair Cook (79) and Ian Bell (63 not out).
Well though Shivnarine Chanderpaul, officially the world's best batsman, played in scoring 87 not out and 91 at Lord's, the fact he came in with the total on 86 for three and then 36 for three was a testament to the failings of West Indies' top order. The likes of opener Adrian Barath, Kieran Powell and Kirk Edwards can expect their techniques to be tested again by James Anderson and Stuart Broad, Man of the Match at Lord's with an 11-wicket haul, at a Trent Bridge ground renowned for aiding swing bowling.
West Indies have won just twice in their last 31 Tests and are without a win in 15 Tests in England, a run including 13 defeats.
They badly need someone in the top order to lend more support to Chanderpaul and Marlon Samuels, who made 86 in the second innings at Lord's.
"Shiv and Marlon are leading from the front and the younger players are taking a pattern from their book," said West Indies wicketkeeper Denesh Ramdin. "Young Adrian Barath and Kieran Powell went into the nets and batted for a long period of time. Their confidence is still high. If they bat for a long period of time in the middle, they will get runs."
The Indian Premier League and disputes with the West Indies Cricket Board have left the tourists without the likes of star opening batsman Chris Gayle as well as Dwayne Bravo, Kieron Pollard, Andre Russell and Sunil Narine. Meanwhile Ramnaresh Sarwan, like Gayle a former captain, is scoring runs in County cricket for Leicestershire, while pacer Jerome Taylor is injured.
The West Indies suffered another setback when fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, who took four wickets on debut at Lord's, was subsequently ruled out of the tour with a back injury. However Kemar Roach, who troubled England with a fiery spell on the fourth evening at Lord's, should be fit after suffering a recurrence of a long-standing ankle problem.
The present West Indies side may struggle to match the standards and all-round flair of the celebrated teams of the 1970s and 1980s. But opening batsman Cook insisted the current attack were no pushovers.
"Kemar obviously bowled quick at times and bowled with great control. So did Fidel [Edwards], he's certainly got a lot more control than when he came over a few years ago."
Nor was Cook impressed with the view there were now few genuine fast bowlers around in world cricket. "I've never agreed with that argument seeing as I'm the one who has to go out and face the new ball," he said. "It always seems to be people 90 or 100 yards away saying that. There's some fine bowlers around, none finer than our lads, who time and time again have produced the goods."
Gabriel's absence will mean at least one change for the West Indies, with fit-again Ravi Rampaul set to come in ahead of Tino Best, summoned from the Caribbean on Tuesday. And they could add some much needed variety to their attack by recalling spinner Shane Shillingford. Despite taking 10 wickets in his previous Test appearance against Australia, Shillingford was omitted at Lord's, where Samuels' part-time slow bowling posed few problems.
England all-rounder Tim Bresnan may have celebrated his 12th win in as many career Test appearances at Lord's but a match return of one for 144 has left his place vulnerable to a challenge from pacers Steven Finn and Graham Onions.