ENGLAND skipper Alastair Cook admits his preference would be to name an unchanged side for the third and final Test against the West Indies in Barbados, which starts today.
Question marks remain over the availability of Ben Stokes due to a back injury, although the all-rounder bowled in the nets yesterday, while batsman Ian Bell is expected to shrug off a finger problem and take his place in the middle order.
Former England captains Sir Ian Botham and Michael Vaughan, meanwhile, have both called for opener Jonathan Trott to be dropped for the Kensington Oval clash in favour of uncapped Yorkshireman Adam Lyth.
But Cook appears keen to retain faith with the players that fired England into a 1-0 series lead with a nine-wicket victory on the final day of their last match in Grenada and a first overseas Test victory since 2012.
“The normal inclination is to go with the same team because you like to give people the confidence that they are not always playing for their place,” said Cook, who has five half-centuries in his last eight Test innings.
“You get stability when you’re winning and everyone knows their role in the team. We want to give people a fair crack of the whip when they’re there, not just play one Test and get jettisoned out.”
Trott has endured a difficult tour having made his return to the international arena following an 18-month absence with a stress-related illness, which emerged during the catastrophic 2013/14 Ashes series.
The 34-year-old averages just 15.75 runs in four innings since his recall, where he has been batting at the top of the order instead of his more accustomed No3 slot, having notched one half-century and a flurry of low scores, including two ducks.
The conundrum of Cook’s opening partner has remained unsolved since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in 2012, with the likes of Joe Root, Nick Compton, Michael Carberry and Sam Robson all tried but subsequently dispensed with.
Trott was a key part of the England team that surged to the top of the Test rankings in 2011 and Cook is adamant he witnessed enough from the Warwickshire batsman in his knock of 59 in Grenada to warrant reselection.
“Trotty’s been working hard and he is a fine, fine cricketer who is adjusting to a different role,” added Cook. “Hopefully he can do what he has done a huge amount of times in his career and produce an innings that we know he can play.
“I thought we saw a big glimpse of that in the first innings of the second Test. I thought he looked a lot more like the Jonathan Trott who had played 49 games before this tour.”
The West Indies are pondering a return to a bygone time and the selection of an all-seam attack due to fitness concerns over leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo and all-clears for pace duo Jerome Taylor and Jason Holder.