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It has been an English summer of entertaining Test cricket which has, at times, been of the very highest quality but at others has been dramatically less so. The second Test at Headingley was an illustration: a fine match with plenty of drama and fluctuations of fortune and some high class performances but one which was also potted with plenty of average cricket throughout.
That the Test match season finishes with a series decider is, though, in keeping with the entertaining nature of the games this summer. With a resurgent Windies looking to cause one of the biggest Test upsets in recent history by winning the series and with England looking to go into a vital Ashes tour this winter on the back of two series victories, this is high stakes cricket.
England's defeat in Leeds was further evidence that they remain a frustratingly inconsistent work in progress. After three consecutive Test wins, two against South Africa and one against Windies at Edgbaston, it was a sobering loss. Captain Joe Root and coach Trevor Bayliss both lamented their side's poor showing with the bat in the first innings at Headingley and it is the batting which exercises the selectors most ahead of the Ashes.
Mark Stoneman and Dawid Malan both scored half-centuries in Leeds but could do with another commanding score in this match to give them confidence ahead of Australia and it is shaping up to be an important match for Tom Westley, who has just 19 runs in the series. All three of these players have their qualities but Test match cricket is a demanding place and they are running out of time to establish themselves before the Ashes.
It could be a special match for James Anderson who needs just three wickets to reach 500 in Test cricket. Bayliss was unhappy with England's performance with the ball in the second Test too, thinking his team had bowled too short, but Anderson and Stuart Broad very rarely get things wrong two games in a row. Toby Roland-Jones, who replaces Chris Woakes in the final eleven, has taken 14 wickets in his three Tests to date and will add more control than Woakes was able to provide.
Windies have not won a Test series overseas against anyone other than Bangladesh and Zimbabwe since 1994/95, when they beat New Zealand, so they will lack for no motivation at Lord's. Their performance at Headingley was all the more impressive given their three day capitulation at Edgbaston but, as with England, consistency is their issue. Stuart Law, Windies' coach, hopes that the victory in Leeds will give his players the confidence that they belong at Test level which will in turn help deliver improved performances.
Despite the excellence of Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite in the previous match, there are areas for Windies to improve. Their fielding at Headingley was poor, with a raft of dropped catches, and their bowlers struggled to maintain pressure for long periods. Shannon Gabriel's pace discomforted England's batsmen in the previous match but Kemar Roach and Jason Holder need to back him up with more consistency and Devendra Bishoo could do with some more bowling too.
Two inconsistent teams, a number of high-class players alongside some with plenty to prove and a winner takes all game at Lord's. As a season finale goes, it is set up perfectly.
When: Thursday September 7, 2017. 11:00am start
Where: Lord's Cricket Ground, London.
What to expect: The Lord's pitch had a green tinge the day before the game but is likely to be good for batting on the first two days. Earlier this season against South Africa, the pitch deteriorated sharply as the game wore on although more grass on the pitch for this match should mean it holds together for longer. The weather is set to be mixed with some rain forecast.
England have confirmed that Tony Roland-Jones will replace Chris Woakes in the only change from the team that played at Headingley. That means no place for Hampshire's young leg-spinner Mason Crane despite it being the original intention of England's management for him to play here.
Windies will name their team at the toss tomorrow. The main area of consideration for the tourists is whether leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo will keep his place in the team or another seamer, perhaps Miguel Cummins, will be selected. Given Bishoo's lack of bowling in Leeds and the green tinge of the Lord's surface, Cummins may be favourite.
The last time West Indies won a series in England was in 1988. Only three members of the current squad were born then - Devendra Bishoo, Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel.
The last time West Indies won two successive Tests in an away series was way back in January 1993 in Adelaide and Perth to clinch the series after trailing 0-1.
James Anderson has taken 81 wickets at Lord's. If he gets three more wickets in this Test, he will reach the landmark of 500 wickets and he will also have the most records by a fast bowler at a particular venue.
Joe Root needs one more score of fifty or more to break AB de Villiers record of scoring 50 or more in 12 consecutive Tests.
Windies (From): Kraigg Brathwaite, Kieran Powell, Devendra Bishoo, Kyle Hope, Shai Hope, Roston Chase, Jermaine Blackwood, Shane Dowrich(w), Jason Holder(c), Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Alzarri Joseph, Raymon Reifer, Miguel Cummins
England (From): Alastair Cook, Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley, Joe Root(c), Dawid Malan, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow(w), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Stuart Broad, James Anderson, Mason Crane, Toby Roland-Jones
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