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Stuart Dalgleish 5th Jun 2012 - 21:46

England without Jimmy are still a gimme

England v West Indies Third Test preview - Thursday 11:00 live on Sky Sports 1

England (7/4) will look to wrap up a series sweep of the West Indies (14/1, draw 8/15) as they meet in the third and final Test at Edgbaston.

As expected, the Three Lions have dominated the matches from start to finish and have proved just why they're the best team in world cricket, the real test comes against South Africa later in the summer but these performances will have helped rediscover some confidence after a disappointing winter.

A few players pre-series were under pressure to perform, particularly the top order, and it's fair to say that they've answered their critics quite emphatically.

Andrew Strauss (7/2 top England batsman) was the man facing most of the fire, but the skipper has looked like his old self with a couple of beautifully crafted centuries, and we can safely say that he's here for a while to come yet.

Kevin Pietersen (4/1) and Ian Bell (6/1) faced criticism, but both of them have managed 50s in the series and are averaging over 40 each in three innings, it's fair to say their Test places are secure for the immediate future also.

KP, as ever, caused a bit of controversy last week when he announced his retirement from the short forms, but the ECB might have forced his decision a little bit by their strange selection policy, England are now going to be without one of their star men for when they defend their ICC World Twenty20 crown later in the year.

So while England are losing one of their better players, the Windies are gaining one of their main men, albeit too late for this series.

Chris Gayle has put aside his differences with the board and is in the ODI squad, how they could've done with his power-hitting in these Tests though.

Without Gayle, West Indies have struggled with the bat and don't have anywhere near enough depth to post big totals when they lose key players.

Their first three batsmen, Adrian Barath (11/2 top WI batsman), Kieran Powell (6/1) and Kirk Edwards (13/2) average just 10.66 between them from the two Tests, it's hardly the sort of form that's going to set-up big first innings totals.

Too many times Shiv Chanderpaul (5/2) is coming in with the score below 50 and trying the rescue the innings, he's had a bit of support from Marlon Samuels (4/1), and the skipper Darren Sammy (12/1) who both weighed in with centuries in the last Test, but you can't help but think Gayle would've pushed them to more competitive scores and we might be going into this match with it all to play for.

As it is, England are home and hosed and have the luxury of being able to rest their best bowler James Anderson for the last match, and could even leave out Stuart Broad (9/4 top England bowler) from their starting XI.

It might seem disrespectful to the West Indies if they leave out both senior pacemen, but Broad will feature in all forms this summer and they can't have him fatigued for the big South Africa series.

For now, just the one spot is definitely up for grabs; Tim Bresnan (5/2) has his place in the team secure after a man of the match performance at Trent Bridge so it will be between Steven Finn (11/4) and Graham Onions (3/1) for the final seamer spot.

WI will be making forced changes to their attack after injury put paid to Kemar Roach's tour, Sunil Narine (9/4 top WI bowler) is his replacement but is a spinner, which might mean Shane Shillingford (7/2) makes way for the recent IPL winner, as two spinners are not required in expected damp conditions.

Tino Best (7/2) could be in line for a recall, and the quick bowler will be used to the conditions after a successful spell at Yorkshire in 2010.

It is forecast bad weather in Birmingham over the next few days, but England have proven before that they don't always need five days to win a Test match; at 7/4 it is certainly worth a few quid on the Three Lions.

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