The battle between the eighth and ninth-ranked Test sides will not necessarily attract a lot of viewers, particularly with the football World Cup getting into its business end at the same time. The Antigua Test, therefore, might go under the radar, but it will still be mightily important for West Indies and Bangladesh.
If Bangladesh win, they will be back to winning ways after a difficult 12 months. West Indies winning would mean more progress for them, which will do wonders for their young Test players. The home side is fresh off a tough Test series against Sri Lanka in which they started very well but ultimately gave away a 1-0 lead.
Against Bangladesh, they can hope to see more runs from the likes of Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite, their leading Test batsmen in the last 12 months. Shane Dowrich was their top run-getter in the three Tests against Sri Lanka, but Roston Chase, Kieran Powell and Devon Smith were not in form.
The bowling attack was mostly outstanding, particularly Shannon Gabriel, who recently crossed 100 Test wickets. His 20 wickets at 14.95 against Sri Lanka must have rung alarm bells in the Bangladesh dressing room, while Miguel Cummins and Kemar Roach aren’t any less menacing.
Captain Jason Holder balances the line-up with his runs, wickets and catching, while Devendra Bishoo will also pose a threat against a batting line-up that struggles regularly against legspin.
Bangladesh are marking a new beginning under Shakib Al Hasan, who missed his return to captaincy in February due to a hand injury. Shakib will require help from Tamim Iqbal, Mushfiqur Rahim and Mominul Haque to once again carry Bangladesh’s batting and, given the shape of their bowling attack, he will also have to shoulder the burden of the bowling.
Among the batsmen, Mahmudullah, Imrul Kayes and Liton Das have much to prove, with Nazmul Hossain Shanto knocking at the door for a Test return. If conditions are in favour of spinners, Bangladesh also have Mehidy Hasan and Taijul Islam – but whether they can perform consistently is a question that remains to be answered.
West Indies: LDWWL (last five completed matches, most recent first)
In the spotlight
All eyes will be on fast bowler Shannon Gabriel after he became the first West Indian to take 20 wickets in a Test series in 16 years. He averaged a spectacular 14.95 against Sri Lanka, picking up the Player-of-the-Series award. Gabriel is also the first West Indian in 37 years to take 20 or more wickets in a three-match Test series since Michael Holding in 1981.
Liton Das has shown improvement over the last nine months, and will be one of those tasked with tackling Gabriel in Antigua. Liton has so far made 248 runs in eight innings, which includes two fifties. He is known to have the ability to negotiate fast, short deliveries, a trait that will be key to his, and potentially his side’s, fate.
Shimron Hetmyer has returned from illness with a century against the touring Bangladeshis last week. He could be called up if West Indies want to strengthen their batting. Keemo Paul is a fast-bowling option, but it is likely that the Roach-Gabriel-Holder-Cummins foursome will not be tinkered with.
West Indies (probable): 1 Kraigg Brathwaite, 2 Devon Smith, 3 Kieran Powell, 4 Shai Hope, 5 Roston Chase, 6 Shane Dowrich (wk), 7 Jason Holder (capt), 8 Devendra Bishoo, 9 Kemar Roach, 10 Miguel Cummins, 11 Shannon Gabriel
Bangladesh have three automatic changes as Sabbir Rahman, Abdur Razzak and Mustafizur Rahman didn’t make it to the West Indies-bound Test squad. They will also be employing a vastly different bowling attack than the one that played in their last Test, back home in February.
Bangladesh (probable): 1 Tamim Iqbal, 2 Imrul Kayes, 3 Mominul Haque, 4 Mushfiqur Rahim, 5 Shakib Al Hasan (capt), 6 Litton Das (wk), 7 Mahmudullah, 8 Mehidy Hasan Miraz, 9 Shafiul Islam, 10 Rubel Hossain, 11 Abu Jayed
Pitch and conditions
The Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in Antigua has hosted only one first-class match since its last Test match against India in 2016. In the five Tests played at this venue, teams have averaged just under 450 runs batting first.
The weather should be mainly fine over the first four days, with rain forecast only on the fifth day.
Stats and trivia
Tamim Iqbal is 15 runs away from becoming the first Bangladesh player to reach 4,000 Test runs
Mushfiqur Rahim will equal Mohammad Ashraful’s 61 Tests to become the most capped Test cricketer for Bangladesh
Jason Holder will become the sixth West Indies captain to lead the side in at least 25 Tests