West Indies v England: Big calls to make as England look for first win in eight tests
England are targeting a first test match win since August when they face the West Indies at the Kensington Oval on Wednesday.
Joe Root’s side have not claimed a five-day win since they secured a mammoth innings and 76 runs victory over India in their third of a four-match series last summer.
Since that win at Headingley, England have lost five of their seven test matches, with only a draw in the penultimate match of the Ashes series and the first test stalemate against the West Indies improving that poor recent record.
All eyes now turn towards the second test in Barbados this week as England look to go ahead in a series for the the first time since they went one up in India in a series they went on to lose 3-1 just over a year ago.
There are several big calls to make ahead of the second test and National World takes a look at the issues facing Root ahead of the first ball on Wednesday.
Who should replace Mark Wood?
Durham paceman Mark Wood has been one of very few England players to emerge with much credit from a largely negative winter.
Wood was England’s leading wicket-taker during a dismal Ashes tour after taking 17 wickets for a total of 453 runs at an average of 26.64.
But his performances went far beyond figures as Wood displayed the character and desire that even brought admiration from the Aussies.
Wood took just a solitary wicket in the first test against the West Indies as he continues to struggling with an elbow injury - and that leaves England with a number of options to consider.
Uncapped duo Saqib Mahmood and Matthew Fisher are both in contention, with Ollie Robinson providing a slightly more experienced option that seems likely to be taken.
The 28-year-old missed the opening test of the series after suffering from the back spasms that hampered his tour down under - but underwent an extensive session in the nets on Monday.
Stick or twist elsewhere in the pace bowling attack?
Even if Mahmood misses out on directly replacing Wood, the Lancashire quickie could still be handed his first test cap.
After impressing during the one-day game, Mahmood has long been touted to have a similar impact in the long-form of the game and he could get a chance to prove his worth in Barbados.
That would leave England with a straight choice between Craig Overton and Chris Woakes, with the duo struggling to shine during the first test with combined figures of 3-218.
The pace and ability to reverse swing of Mahmood could leave the duo vulnerable to being replaced.
An alternative option would be a first test cap for Yorkshire seamer Fisher, who has overcome a number of injuries to earn a first England senior call-up after taking 20 wickets in just five County Championship matches last season.
Is playing an additional spinner an option?
One of the biggest positives of the first test was the performance of Jack Leach.
The Somerset spinner returned figures of 5/136, which seem unimpressive at first sight, but it was his second innings spell 3-57 from 30.1 overs that showed he can be a threat.
Although it would be somewhat left-field, and would completely depend on the state of the Kensington Oval pitch, England could opt to name a second spinner and hand Matt Parkinson a belated test match debut.
The Lancashire leggy has been named as part of test match squads in series against the likes of Sri Lanka, India, New Zealand and Australia without being handed a maiden cap.
His chances of what remains an unlikely start will depend entirely on the pitch come Wednesday.
Lees will get more chances to prove himself - but what comes next?
It would be safe to suggest Durham opener Alex Lees did not enjoy the most successful of test debuts after being handed a chance at the top of the order in the first test.
Lees averaged just over 39 in last season’s County Championship and made a promising start in the Caribbean after hitting a hard-earned 65 in a warm-up game against West Indies President’s XI.
However, his first test innings ended with just one boundary in nine balls before he fell to the swing of Kemar Roach.
A small returned followed in the second innings with Roach catching Lees in front with the latter sat on six runs from the 27 balls he faced.
Lees will be handed another chance to prove his worth at the Kensington Oval as England look to find a suitable opening partner for Zak Crawley, who goes into the second test on the back of an impressive century at North Sound.
There are a complete lack of opening options elsewhere in the England squad that has travelled to the Windies - so Lees will almost certainly remain at the top of the order for the next two tests.
This is his chance to keep himself at the forefront of the selectors’ minds and secure a longer-term future in the test arena - and it feels like one he has to take.
Joe Root (captain)
Ben Foakes (wk)