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The match that matters

Not often does a match between England and the West Indies take place with millions in India and Bangladesh keeping a keen eye on it. Atreyo Mukhopadhyay reports. What if... | Head to head | Standings

cricket Updated: Mar 17, 2011 00:55 IST
Atreyo Mukhopadhyay

Not often does a match between England and the West Indies take place with millions in India and Bangladesh keeping a keen eye on it. That's how things stand in group B after 17 matches. South Africa is the only team to have made it to the quarter-finals from this group, and if the West Indies win on Thursday, they too will advance with India and Bangladesh, knocking out England.

It will take some doing still. England might have lost to Bangladesh and Ireland and laboured past the Netherlands, but their performance against the better teams have been impressive. After holding India to a tie despite conceding 338 runs, they defended a seemingly below-par 171 against South Africa.

Venue advantage

It's just the opposite in the case of the West Indies. They made shortwork of the small teams but went down without much of a fight when they faced South Africa. They will be in unfamiliar territory on the MA Chidambaram Stadium pitch which has not been good for batting.

England, on the other hand, will have the advantage of having won a close game at the venue against South Africa.

One positive for the West Indies is the return of Chris Gayle, who missed the previous match against Ireland with a hamstring injury. "We welcome Chris back. It's good to have him in the team, it is a boost for a vital match. His presence will be a massive plus for us," said captain Darren Sammy.

Fitness blues
England are not that well placed on the fitness front. Medium-pacer Ajmal Shahzad is not 100%, depleting England's fast bowling stocks with Tim Bresnan and James Anderson, who is already struggling to get his act right. Skipper Andrew Strauss will certainly rely on spinners Graeme Swann and Michael Yardy. His other pace option is Stuart Broad's replacement, Chris Tremlett.

Demanding schedule
In a way, it's been too demanding for England in the last few months. They were drained physically and emotionally after winning the Ashes.

It showed in their subsequent 1-6 ODI series loss against Australia before coming to the World Cup. England have already lost Kevin Pietersen and Stuart Broad due to injuries.

But the skipper was not too worried. "We have been on the road for a long time, but what I want to say is that fatigue is the last thing on our minds," Strauss said.

Unfair hopes
Somewhat unfairly, all of India and Bangladesh will hope that is not the case. Both the co-hosts will have a chance to reach the quarter-finals even if England win, but the diehards and the faint-hearts in either country would hope the wait ends on Thursday.

Going into their last group stage match England, of course, would like to win, to stay alive and keep those hopes on hold.