West Indies captain Chris Gayle is confident his players can forget the negative vibes from Antigua and return to the buoyant mood they created in Jamaica with their innings victory that sends the home team into Thursday’s 4th Digicel Test leading 1-0 in the Digicel Series 2009.
The Antigua experience included an embarrassing abandonment at the ill-prepared Sir Vivian Richards Stadium and a patchy performance in the hastily-arranged, drawn 3rd Digicel Test at the Antigua Recreation Ground.
The 29-year-old Jamaican explained: “We’re looking past those two (Antigua) games now. I’m sure this time around, we’ll come out running. We know how important this game is.
“In the end there, we came out with a draw which is very pleasing and we’re still 1-0 up in the series. It’s just for us to actually continue in the same vein (as in Jamaica).
“England will be looking to square the series so we’ll just try to put up a good fight and we know we can do it and this game can actually determine the series as well.”
Gayle admitted that it was a strange feeling to be sitting on the cusp of a series victory: “We’re not accustomed being in these positions the last couple of years. It’s an opportunity for us to actually try and build on this and not give in to England as much as possible.”
The West Indies are likely to retain the same eleven that played in both Digicel Tests in Antigua, although opening batsman Devon Smith and fast bowler Daren Powell face competition for their places from Lendl Simmons and Lionel Baker.
Both Simmons and Baker enjoyed good performances last weekend in the WICB four-day competition and Gayle said he was pleased with the competition within the team: “It’s very good to see these guys actually putting a lot of pressure trying to be in the final eleven. It’s good to actually when you go into a selection meeting it’s difficult to pick the final eleven.
“We have to try and come up with the best formula and not try to change too much at this point in time.
England are forced into making two changes with Ravi Bopara and reserve wicket-keeper Tim Ambrose likely to replace injured Andrew Flintoff and No. 1 gloveman Matt Prior.
Prior has returned to England to be with his wife and new born son while Flintoff has been ruled out due to a hip injury.
“I think it’s a big loss to them. He’s a key player,” Gayle said about the loss of veteran all-rounder Flintoff.
“The stats might not show it in the last two games. He hasn’t really got among the runs or got a lot of wickets,” he added. “But we know how important Freddie Flintoff is for England. I’m sure he’ll be missed, especially in the bowling department.”
England, however, will be boosted by a huge travelling contingent that, like Antigua, is likely to swamp the local support.
“We can look at it like if we’re playing at Lord’s,” Gayle said. “It’s just like the last time we played here, it was a similar thing, totally English fans and we saw a similar thing in Antigua as well.”