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England braced for West Indies, 1st Ld-Writethru

 England's Ravi Bopara, right, tackles Monty Panesar as they kick a soccer ball during net practice at Lord's cricket ground, London, Monday May 4, 20...
 The England cricket team warm up during a net practice at Lord's cricket ground, London, Monday, May 4, 2009. England will face the West Indies in a ...
 West Indies' Darren Sammy stretches out during the net practice at Lord's cricket ground, London, Monday May 4, 2009. England will face the West Indi...
 West Indies' Chris Gayle smiles during the net practice at Lord's cricket ground, London, Monday May 4, 2009. England will face the West Indies in a ...

BRITAIN CRICKET ENGLAND WEST INDIES

England's Ravi Bopara, right, tackles Monty Panesar as they kick a soccer ball during net practice at Lord's cricket ground, London, Monday May 4, 20...

BRITAIN CRICKET ENGLAND WEST INDIES

The England cricket team warm up during a net practice at Lord's cricket ground, London, Monday, May 4, 2009. England will face the West Indies in a ...

BRITAIN CRICKET ENGLAND WEST INDIES

West Indies' Darren Sammy stretches out during the net practice at Lord's cricket ground, London, Monday May 4, 2009. England will face the West Indi...

BRITAIN CRICKET ENGLAND WEST INDIES

West Indies' Chris Gayle smiles during the net practice at Lord's cricket ground, London, Monday May 4, 2009. England will face the West Indies in a ...

England cricket will attempt to avenge its recent series defeat to the West Indies on Wednesday at Lord's, but the two-test series is in danger of being eclipsed by the Indian Premier League and the host nation's looming confrontation with Australia.
The West Indies have been drafted in to replace England's original opponents Zimbabwe, who no longer play test cricket, and then subsequently Sri Lanka for this two-game precursor to the Twenty20 World Cup in June and the Ashes a month later.
Where once the arrival of the West Indies would send a tremor of fear around every dressing room in England, there is now a feeling that Chris Gayle's side are simply a warm-up act.
This at least was the opinion of English fast bowler Stuart Broad, who opted out of the IPL in favor of the superior preparation he felt the West Indies would offer.
"The Ashes is a major reason that I didn't go to the IPL and a major reason why anyone plays for their country," he told The Independent newspaper. "You can make history. People have a passion for the Ashes and I think to the nation it's the most important thing in the cricketing world.
"It's the pinnacle. Beating the West Indies at home is brilliant but beating Australia gives massive national pride."
The attraction of the IPL proved stronger, though, for Gayle. The West Indies captain arrived in Britain just 48 hours before the start of Wednesday's test, so that he could play an extra game with the Kolkata Knight Riders, a situation described by his coach John Dyson as "not ideal."
Yet at least Gayle was playing cricket. Of the English contingent at the IPL, Paul Collingwood was only used as a substitute fielder, Kevin Pietersen was erratic and Andrew Flintoff aggravated an injury, ruling him out of the West Indies series _ though the British media's fixation with the Ashes ensured the headlines all concerned his readiness to face Australia.
Only Ravi Bopara returned from South Africa with his reputation enhanced, though even he admitted he hadn't expected to be selected for Wednesday's test.
"If I get runs at number three there is a chance for me to bat at number three in the Ashes as well, which is a great opportunity," he said. "That is what I have dreamed about since I was a young boy.
"It was a bit of a surprise to hear that Ian Bell, Owais Shah and Michael Vaughan weren't in the squad. I thought with Fred (Andrew Flintoff) being injured one of them might have got a call-up, but I am happy. The guys have backed me and said 'You are the man to do it' and I want to prove them right."
Only 12,000 tickets have been sold for the opening day at Lord's, a venue that can hold double that number. The underwhelmed reaction of the England supporters to the West Indies series belies the fact, though, that England was beaten 1-0 when the two sides met in the Caribbean earlier this year.
It's true the bowlers no longer induce the fear they once did, but they are arguably more potent than England's unsettled attack. Tim Bresnan and Graham Onions are the latest candidates to be plucked from the county game in the hope they might prove long-term replacements for Steve Harmison and Matthew Hoggard.
It's also true that the West Indies' preparation for the series has been far from perfect. But despite a 10-wicket loss to the England Lions, Dyson was keen to remind his hosts of recent results.
"We're a surprising lot and we bounce back from things," he said. "I just think back to the Caribbean a couple of months ago when everyone scored hundreds for England in the practice game before the first Test at St. Kitts and (they) got bowled out for 51 in the first Test."
The key problem for the West Indies will be how they deal with English conditions which, at Lord's and then Chester-le-Street in the second test starting May 14, should help the bowlers who toiled so fruitlessly in the Caribbean earlier this year.
If they can keep an experimental English bowling attack quiet they may just issue a reminder of why they _ and test cricket _ still matter.


Updated : 2021-07-29 05:42 GMT+08:00