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Feb 6, 2009

England tour of West Indies, 2009

KINGSTON (Reuters) - Boosted by the return to fitness of all-rounder Andrew Flintoff, England captain Andrew Strauss has called on his bowlers to lift their game for the four test series against West Indies.

"We need to bowl better, that is the reality," Strauss said on the eve of the first test which starts in Sabina Park on Wednesday. "All our bowlers are proven match-winning bowlers but they need to do it more consistently."

England have dismissed their opponents twice in only three of their past nine tests but always look more threatening with Flintoff on form.

"He has come through practice very well and we are confident he will be playing," said the England skipper who suggested the Lancashire all-rounder would be used more as a strike than a stock bowler.

"Fred (Flintoff) is so important for us because he allows us the luxury of playing a five-man bowling attack.

"Out of all the bowlers in the world he is up there among the bowlers who batsmen don't like facing. It is a shame to use him too much as a stock bowler.

"He is better than that and if we can take pressure off him in terms of length of spells he bowls, it might help with his injury situation and we might get more wickets out of him," said Strauss who starts his reign as captain on Wednesday.

West Indies skipper Chris Gayle has suffered a setback though with Barbados opening batsman Dale Richards, poised for his test debut at the age of 32, highly doubtful due to a swollen foot.

"I'm more pessimistic than optimistic about his chances at the moment," said West Indies coach John Dyson.


Both captains will wait until the last moment before naming their starting line-ups with seamer James Anderson possibly facing exclusion for England while the absence of Richards means Xavier Marshall could get another chance for West Indies.

Marshall epitomises the problems West Indies have had in recent years as they try to climb back up the global rankings.

An exciting strokeplayer of huge promise, the Jamaican averages only 22.09 in his six tests and only 27.64 in first class cricket. Like so many of his team mates, his talent is not in doubt but he has yet to deliver.

The hosts have shown signs of improvement in the past 18 months, they are certainly better than the team which suffered a humiliating 47 all out in the first test against England at Sabina Park five years ago, but they will miss the contribution of injured all-rounder Dwayne Bravo.

England have a different set of challenges as they look to get in peak form ahead of the Ashes series at home to Australia.

The off-the-field conflicts, which led to the sacking of coach Peter Moores and the resignation of Kevin Pietersen from the captaincy, could not have helped England's preparation.

But in terms of performance, the visitors need their experienced campaigners to be back to their best.

Flintoff and seamer Steve Harmison -- who helped England to a 10-wicket victory in the opening test in 2004 after taking seven for 12 in the second innings -- are the only survivors from the tour five years ago and they will be keen to show they are back to their prime.

Skipper Strauss will have to prove he can cope with the added responsibility of captaincy and the rest of the middle-order batting line-up is anxious to challenge the view that England are over-reliant on Pietersen's run-making.

The match will be the first England have played under the video referral system -- the sides will be allowed a maximum of two unsuccessful referrals per innings.

Probable teams:

England: Andrew Strauss (captain), Alastair Cook, Ian Bell, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Andrew Flintoff, Matt Prior (wicketkeeper), Stuart Broad, Ryan Sidebottom, Steve Harmison, Monty Panesar

West Indies: Chris Gayle (captain), Devon Smith, Ramnaresh Sarwan, Xavier Marshall, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Brendan Nash, Denesh Ramdin (wicketkeeper), Jerome Taylor, Daren Powell, Amit Jaggernauth, Fidel Edwards

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