Strauss excited by Windies challenge
Andrew Strauss insists England will play without fear as they seek to stay in the World Cup when they face West Indies in Chennai tomorrow.
Strauss’ side must win their last Group B contest to have a chance of remaining in the competition. If they do, they will still have to wait for the outcome of Bangladesh and the Windies’ final group games - against South Africa and India respectively - to know whether they will progress to the quarter-finals.
Strauss and Graeme Swann, who were able to train today having recovered from stomach upsets, are set to play tomorrow but Ajmal Shahzad has been struck down by illness and is a doubt.
The skipper is optimistic England will come good after a stuttering campaign, which has featured a win against South Africa at tomorrow’s venue and a tie versus tournament favourites India but also defeats to Ireland and Bangladesh.
“It is a one-off and, we hope, the start of a series of one-offs,” he said. “I think the juices are flowing and there are a few butterflies in the stomach - which is a great sign for us.
“We have done well in big matches over the last couple of years. The equation is very simple, and this isn’t a time to go into our shells - we have to got out there and take the West Indies on.
“I’m genuinely excited about it. We have nothing to fear - and I think we can go out there and play some good cricket tomorrow and, we hope, book our passage into the next phase of the tournament.”
Strauss believes out-of-sorts spearhead James Anderson can fire tomorrow, if he retains his place in the side.
Anderson led England’s attack with aplomb during the Ashes triumph but has since suffered a dip in form in limited-overs cricket.
“Jimmy has had a tough time in some of the games in the World Cup so far, but we all know what a qualify performer he is,” Strauss added.
“He has done it for us over and over again during the course of the winter and previously, so his name is very much in the mix for selection.
“All the bowlers will have question marks as to what is the right attack and right balance to the attack. That happens every time we pick a side.”
England are expected to play two specialist spinners at the MA Chidambaram Stadium where both Swann and the seamers found significant help in that much-needed win over the Proteas.
“You must think about the best way of getting those left-handers out,” said Strauss. “They have four in their top five, and then lower down the order it is mainly right-handers.
“We have some bowlers who are better at left-handers - and we need them and also guys who can trouble the right-handers later on.
“I think we have a lot of options both with spin and seam for this game and we are going to pick a balanced bowling line-up that allows us to exploit whatever conditions the wicket throws at us.
“It obviously turned here in the last game, so there is definitely a case for two spinners.”
The balance of the bowling attack is not the only issue facing England, who have three contenders to partner Strauss at the top of the batting order.
Their first solution to filling the gap created by Kevin Pietersen’s injury was Matt Prior but, given the latter's strength against spin, Ian Bell and Ravi Bopara are also in the equation.
“We said before the game we may not do it in every game, so we have to weigh up the conditions and weigh up the West Indies attack and decide on the best way of countering them in those first 15 overs or so,” added Strauss.
“Matt’s greatest strength is his playing of spin. We are going to have to think about how much spin we are likely to face early on in the innings.”
England must think about how to stop the opposing batsmen too, with Chris Gayle fit again at the top of the order and Kieron Pollard a habitual big-hitter slightly lower down.
“Those sort of players who can hit a lot of sixes are always dangerous, but they are also likely to provide opportunities because they hit the ball in the air,” said Strauss.
“Now is not the time to be concerned or scared of anyone. Now is the time to back our skills and, if we do that, we should be good enough.”
West Indies captain Darren Sammy added fuel to the fire by suggesting some England players may want to be home before the knockout stage begins.
“It’s a good time to play England,” said Sammy, whose team have won their last three matches. “Obviously they’ve been on the road for a long time. Apparently they’ve been home for four days in five months. That’s something that will be on their minds.
“In order for them to stay, they’ve got to win ... or maybe some of them will want to go home to their families. You never know.”