CHENNAI, India, March 17 – England head into their final Group B match against the West Indies on Thursday knowing defeat will send them crashing out of the World Cup.Even victory may not be enough for Andrew Strauss’s men to go through to the knockout stages, with England having to rely on other results going their way.
England’s preparations suffered a setback when skipper Strauss and lead spinner Graeme Swann both missed training Tuesday through illness while strike fast bowler James Anderson received treatment for a shoulder niggle.
"They’re two key players and would be in anybody’s team," England batsman Jonathan Trott said of Strauss and Swann.
A see-saw tournament for England has seen them lose to Ireland and Bangladesh yet tie with India and beat a highly-fancied South Africa.
Significantly, that win over the Proteas came at Chennai’s Chidambaram Stadium where England held their nerve on a sharply turning pitch to win a low-scoring thriller by six runs.
Now they hope Swann is fully fit to again put the squeeze on the batsmen in a match that is not quite as decisive for the West Indies, who return to the Chidambaram three days later for a group finale against India.
"It does give things a certain amount of clarity," said Swann, all but unplayable at times while taking one for 29 against South Africa.
"If we win four games, we win the World Cup which is very simple. If we’d won our first four games it would have been a much nicer position to be in but there’s no point in looking back. It all comes down to Thursday."
Swann, who in his first over in Test cricket took two wickets against India in Chennai in 2008, added: "I hope the wicket is similar to the South African one. If I could roll it up and take it around with me, I happily would."
However, he warned: "The West Indies have got Sulieman Benn, who is a fine spin bowler."
Meanwhile Trott highlighted an inability to out together an all-round display as the reason behind England’s roller coaster campaign.
"We haven’t played consistently," he said. "We’ve either played badly with the bat and well with the ball or badly with the ball and well with the bat."
The West Indies have two big-hitting batsmen in opener Chris Gayle and the in-form Kieron Pollard who can change the momentum of a match in a short space of time.
Pollard hammered 94 off just 55 balls as the West Indies beat Ireland by 44 runs last time out and it was an innings the all-rounder hopes has rid him of the tag of being ‘just’ a Twenty20 cricketer.
"What’s been said about me being a 20-over specialist, that’s just history for me now," Pollard, 23, said.
"I had an opportunity to prove myself and there cannot be a bigger stage than the World Cup to do that. My innings showed what I can do. I will use this as a positive."
He added: "After losing that first match against South Africa, we’ve really bounced back as a team.
"We have a lot of things that are driving us at the moment, one of the things being we were written off. We are using that as a motivating factor."
The good news for the West Indies is that either a win against England or India will see them into the quarter-finals and even two defeats may not be enough to end their World Cup.