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Player of the Match
Player of the Match

England gears up for pink-ball bow

Match facts

August 17-21, 2017
Start time 2pm local (1300 GMT)

Big Picture

Cue spooky music and prepare to step through the locked door… English cricket is about to enter the Test Twilight Zone, where strange things can happen. At the Adelaide Oval in 2015, the highest score between Australia and New Zealand was 224 and the Test was over inside three days; in Dubai last year, West Indies' first taste of day-night Tests, Azhar Ali scored the first pink-ball triple-hundred; a few weeks later, again in Adelaide, Faf du Plessis declared South Africa's first innings during the final session of the opening day. More fantastical still, Pakistan came within 40 runs of chasing 490 to beat Australia at the Gabba in December 2016.

So what will Edgbaston serve up for England's first experience of this eye-catching format tweak? Stuart Broad articulated the uncertainties for the home side when he described it as a step into the unknown and while West Indies are unlikely to talk up their chances too much, they will have the edge in understanding how the pink ball plays. In their last warm-up match, against Derbyshire, they had four batsmen score hundreds whilst bowling out the opposition cheaply - although Shannon Gabriel's problem with overstepping was a cause for concern.

England should come into the game high on confidence, having just defeated South Africa 3-1, but there ought to be no room for complacency - and not only because of how they'll react to the pink pill. Mark Stoneman, the Surrey opener, will make his debut as England's search for a long-term opening partner for Alastair Cook continues, and that is just one of three or four positions that Joe Root will want nailed to the table before setting off for an Ashes defence this winter. This will be a big series for the likes of Tom Westley, Dawid Malan and Toby Roland-Jones, too.

Root will also know not to underestimate West Indies on the basis of their last encounter, when they held England to a 1-1 draw in the Caribbean after being talked down as "mediocre" opposition in the build-up. Jason Holder, West Indies' captain, set the tone with a match-saving hundred in Antigua and then he and his fellow quicks helped bowl them to a series-levelling victory in Bridgetown. The selectors haven't yet recalled the recently un-retired Jerome Taylor, but Kemar Roach is back, after 18 months out of the Test side, and the tourists have a pace battery to keep England on their toes. Edgbaston under floodlights might help to put them in the pink.

The wider context, of course, encompasses the future of the Test game. Ticket sales have been healthy and the Birmingham public seems ready to embrace the concept (or at least give it a whirl). Will they get an Edgbaston classic? Well, stranger things have happened.

Form guide

(last five matches, most recent first)
England WWLWL
West Indies LWLWL

In the spotlight

He has been a model of consistency on the county circuit and, a few weeks after his 30th birthday, Mark Stoneman is finally set for his England opportunity. An average of just under 35 might not signal a great talent waiting to be unleashed but that is more reflective of his tough grounding on the spicy northern tracks of Chester-le-Street, where he learned his trade for Durham. His move to Surrey saw him add a career-best 197 earlier this season and last week he completed 1000 first-class runs for the fifth season running. A good series will in all likelihood see him opening at Brisbane for the start of the 2017-18 Ashes.

Whether West Indies' top seven can make enough runs to put England under pressure will be a key factor of the series, but the return of Kemar Roach could give them an edge with the ball. He may no longer be the bruising quick who discomforted Ricky Ponting and gave Jonny Bairstow a working-over on debut but his form in domestic cricket suggests his has the nous to adapt; seven wickets at a cost of just 74 in two tour matches offers further encouragement that he will be a handful. Roach is by far the most experienced member of the attack and West Indies fans will fervently hope the fire still burns.

Teams news

England will make just one change from the side that overcame South Africa at The Oval and Old Trafford, with Stoneman coming in for Keaton Jennings as Cook's 12th opening partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss. That means no return for Chris Woakes and Mason Crane missing out.

England: 1 Alastair Cook, 2 Mark Stoneman, 3 Tom Westley, 4 Joe Root (capt), 5 Dawid Malan, 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Jonny Bairstow (wk), 8 Moeen Ali, 9 Toby Roland-Jones, 10 Stuart Broad, 11 James Anderson.

Kyle Hope is in line for a debut, coming in at No. 3 above his younger brother, Shai. Both scored hundreds in the pink-ball warm-up match at Derby, as did Roston Chase and opener Kieran Powell. Gabriel struggled with his run-up in that match, bowling 24 no-balls in all, but is expected to play, with the final choice between Devendra Bishoo's legspin or a fourth seamer in Alzarri Joseph.

West Indies (probable): 1 Kraigg Brathwaite, 2 Kieran Powell, 3 Kyle Hope, 4 Shai Hope, 5 Roston Chase, 6 Jermaine Blackwood, 7 Shane Dowrich (wk), 8 Jason Holder (capt), 9 Devendra Bishoo/Alzarri Joseph, 10 Kemar Roach, 11 Shannon Gabriel

Pitch and conditions

The surface being used is one over from the pitch that Australia were bowled out for 136 on in 2015. It is expected to offer some life for the seamers but may not break up much. The forecast is generally clear for the five days but it could be a little chilly for those in the stands come the evening.

Stats and trivia

  • West Indies last won a Test in England on their tour of 2000 - victory by an innings at Edgbaston.

  • The 2012 Edgbaston Test saw Tino Best fall five runs short of becoming the first No. 11 to score a Test hundred.

  • Stuart Broad needs five wickets to overtake Ian Botham as England's second-highest Test wicket-taker.

  • Joe Root has made at least one half-century in his last ten consecutive Tests - another at Edgbaston would set a new record for England.

Quotes

"Of course you want a settled side. You never want to go into a series with guys out of form or under pressure. But that's one of the challenges of Test cricket.''
Joe Root on the merry-go-round of England selection

"We're obviously huge underdogs."
Jason Holder offers a frank assessment of his team's chances

Quick end

2009

Last time WI were all-out in fewer overs in their first inns of a Test than the 47 overs in this inns, v Eng at Lord's.

After a while

2015

Last time none of WI''s top-5 batsmen scored more than 25 runs in a Test innings, which was v Aus in Kingston. Highest score among WI's top-5 in this inns is 25.

Mammoth scores

258.75

Average of Cook's 200+ scores innings, is the third-highest among 24 players with 4 or more 200s. Only Sehwag and Lara have higher runs/innings in 200+ scores.

Cook's fourth

4

No. of double-centuries for Cook in Tests. For England, only Hammond (7) has hit more 200s. Hutton also hit 4 200s.

Cook's edgbaston

767

Previous most Test runs by any batsman at Edgbaston, by David Gower. Cook has gone past that mark to set a new record.

Record Stand at Edgbaston

248

Runs added by Alastair Cook and Joe Root - Highest for the third wicket at Edgbaston and the highest for any wicket in day-night Tests.

Long time coming

16

Innings since Alastair Cook scored his previous Test century. Cook's century came against India at Rajkot when he scored 130.

Root's run

11

Number of consecutive Tests in which Joe Root has got at least one fifty-plus score - joint second-longest such streak for a batsman.

Boundaries galore

22

Boundaries hit in the first session - the joint second-most in the first session on the first day of any Test in the last-ten years.

Roach ends drought

328

Balls Kemar Roach went wicket-less in Tests before dismissing Stoneman. His previous scalp was Kusal Mendis at the P Sara Oval in 2015.

Stoneman earns a Test debut

1033

Runs scored by Mark Stoneman in FC matches in 2017 - the second-highest by any batsman in England in the season. Stoneman averaged 57.38 and made 3 centuries.