England had come to the Caribbean for the three-match Test series as a statistically better side and overwhelming favourites to return with the Wisden Trophy. However, in a matter of just seven days, the West Indies have managed to turn the tables and how! The Jason Holder-led unit announced loud and clear to the cricketing world that irrespective of the rankings they were no pushovers in the Test arena as they produced two clinical performances on the bounce to take an unassailable 2-0 lead in the series.
Now going into the final encounter in St Lucia on Saturday (February 9), all the pressure will be on the Joe Root-led England who are seeking to avoid a whitewash on Caribbean shores for the first time in 33 years.
Absolutely nothing has gone right for England so far in this series. On surfaces where the need of the hour was patience, the visitors have just not been able to apply themselves. While there has been the odd individual brilliance with the bat, as a unit the English team has failed to fire spectacularly.
In three out of the four innings, England have fallen to get past the 200-run mark and Joe Root rightly remarked after his team went down in Antigua that, "you won't win many games scoring less than 200 twice."
The England batsmen will do well to take a cue from their West Indian counterparts who have shown perseverance and grit against some top class bowling. Darren Bravo's 50 off 216 balls, the slowest ever by a West Indian, was a great example of the defiance shown by the hosts and England will need someone to stand up and do a similar job come St. Lucia.
"International cricket demands you adapt to conditions and I think West Indies have done that really well and we've been found wanting," Jos Buttler said ahead of the final Test. "Darren Bravo really committed to setting his stall out and putting a high price on his wicket.
"That commitment to your style and staying very true to how you want to play the game is so important."
Not that England have a lot of options on the batting front. Keaton Jennings, who was dropped for the Antigua Test is probably the only batsman in the reserves, but what the visitors will sincerely be hoping for is their captain to find some form. Root has scores of 4, 22, 7 & 7 in the four innings so far and for his side to really get going he will have to lead from the front and come up with goods.
The likes of Rory Burns, Jonny Bairstow and Moeen Ali have shown patches of form but what they genuinely need is someone to dig in and score the big hundreds something they haven't managed to achieve thus far.
There are also injury concerns in the England unit. All-rounder Ben Stokes missed Thursday's practice with a bruised heel while Chris Woakes and Ben Foakes are also down with injury concerns. Woakes is struggling with a knee issue while Foakes had injured his hand while batting in England's second innings in Antigua.
The visitors might bring in Mark Wood in place of Sam Curran to provide the bowling department with a bit more pace while on the batting front Joe Denly is expected to continue opening with Burns despite an underwhelming debut though there are certain changes expected to the middle-order.
West Indies, on the other hand, will not want to get complacent after their high in Barbados and Antigua and will want to give it their all to claim a 3-0 sweep. They will have to do it without their captain, however, who has been suspended for a Test for a slow over-rate offence by the ICC - a move which has received severe criticism from all corners.
It will not be easy for the hosts to fill the Holder void. He has after all undoubtedly been the best player across both sides in the series boasting an average of 114.50 with the bat and 17.85 with the ball. But with Kraigg Brathwaite at the helm, the hosts who are on a rampage will not want to release the foot off the pedal.
West Indies have ticked most boxes in the two Tests - batsmen getting runs on tough surfaces, fielders holding on to catches and the pacers ripping the England unit to shreds. But the pitch at Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium is generally considered to be best for batting in the Caribbean and the bowlers will have to work doubly hard to earn the wickets.
Who replaces Holder is another thing the hosts will have to ponder. There is a chance the fiery Oshane Thomas will be handed a debut or West Indies might look to go for a like-for-like replacement of Holder in all-rounder Keemo Paul. The England batsmen have not looked one bit comfortable against the pace of Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel and at the moment Thomas getting some game time seems to be the likelier scenario.
West Indies will also be keen on improving their record at the Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium where they have won just one out of six Tests. The surface here is expected to be ripe for the batsmen but the pacers will enjoy their time early on. The weather in St Lucia for Saturday is most clear though there are a few scattered showers expected as the Test goes on.
England: Joe Root(c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Ben Foakes, Keaton Jennings, Jack Leach, Adil Rashid, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite(c), Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Shane Dowrich, Keemo Paul, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Shannon Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Jomel Warrican, Oshane Thomas