West Indies v England Cricket Preview
Root Faces Difficult Decisions As England Prepare For The West Indies
England begin their tour of the West Indies on Wednesday and Joe Root’s men should be surging with confidence after sweeping Sri Lanka aside last time out. Their spinners were on fire in that series and England romped to a 3-0 victory in supremely comfortable fashion. That ended a 12-match winless streak away from home for England’s Test team and it gave everyone a huge boost as they headed into 2019. The selectors have named an unchanged squad for this three-Test series and they will hope to whitewash a struggling West Indies side.
This will be England’s last Test series until they take on Australia for the Ashes in August, so it will be a crucial trial period for those players that are not assured a place in the side. Keaton Jennings, Rory Burns and Adil Rashid are among the stars that will need to impress the selectors, and England could benefit from high motivation levels. Root has declared his intention to lead England back to the summit of the world Test rankings and victory here would see them close the gap on the current pacesetters, Virat Kohli’s India.
England currently find themselves third in the rankings, while the West Indies are down in eighth. They lost 2-0 to Bangladesh in their last series and slumped to a 2-0 defeat at the hands of India in the tour before that, so they could well be low on confidence. However, they could yet channel the heroics they showed when beating England at Headingley in September 2017 as they bid to pull off a shock result.
Jason Holder The Danger For Hosts
The Windies lost that series in England 2-1, but they could hold their heads up high after vanquishing Root’s men on their home turf. Shai Hope became the first player to score a century in both innings of a first-class match at Headingley, while fast bowler Shannon Gabriel and captain Jason Holder impressed with the ball. A number of those players are still in this West Indies Test team, and there are a few more players with a point to prove and a place in the side to cement, so the hosts are not to be taken lightly.
Home advantage is always something to factor in, and Holder is currently positioned as the third best all-rounder in the world in the ICC Test rankings. Yet England have a superstar all-rounder of their own as Ben Stokes has been cleared to join the tour. He missed a large chunk of playing time due to a disciplinary hearing into a fight outside a Bristol nightclub in 2017, but now back in the squad England are a much better team as a result.
The first Test takes place on Wednesday, January 23, and Root has a number of things to ponder in the build-up. First of all, he must decide whether to stick with three spinners. Moeen Ali, Jack Leach and Rashid were magnificent against Sri Lanka and carried the team to victory. However, going with triple spin was a tactical decision designed to specifically upset Sri Lanka, and it would be surprising to see all three given the nod against the West Indies. Despite thriving in that series, Leach might find himself axed as Ali is a better batsman and Rashid just looks a bit more dangerous with the ball.
Root Faces Tough Decisions
There is also competition between the Seamers. It seems unfathomable to leave out James Anderson, so it could become a straight decision between Broad and Curran. Emerging star Ben Foakes looks nailed on to play, along with Jonny Bairstow, Root, Stokes and Jos Buttler. Unless one of the openers, Jennings or Burns, is dropped, it could leave Ali, Rashid, Leach, Anderson, Broad and Curran fighting for four spots in the team. Stokes is a decent right arm option, so Broad could miss out as Curran offers a left-arm weapon and plenty of power, injecting the side with youthful vigour.
England lead the way in the West Indies v England spread betting markets, as the Win Index on Joe Root’s men is currently trading at 54-57, compared to 16-19 on the hosts. The spread for England Series Wins is set at 2.05-2.15, whereas the West Indies’ Series Win Index is 0.5-0.6. Holder’s troops have only won two of their last 15 Test series, and they came against Bangladesh and Zimbabwe. They have not beaten anyone higher than seventh in the world rankings since 2014, so England will go into the series full of confidence. Yet they will be seeking a first triumph in the Caribbean for 15 years, last emerging victorious back in 2004, as they lost in 2009 and drew out there in 2015.
Plenty at Stake in Eagerly Anticipated Series
This will be a series of great importance to both teams. The Windies players will bid to impress new head coach Richard Pybus, who replaced Stuart Law after he moved to Middlesex. Pybus is an Englishman and a controversial selection, as former Windies captain Darren Sammy announced he hoped the appointment was “fake news”. Pybus served as director of cricket for the West Indies between 2013 and 2016, during which time he helped orchestrate the decision that made it compulsory for stars to play their domestic cricket in the Caribbean in order to be considered for selection for the international team, causing many to abandon ship and focus on making money at T20 competitions instead.
For England, it is a final chance to prepare for the visit of Australia later this year. They were ripped apart down under in the last series, but the side will fancy their chances of seizing sweet revenge this time around. The home team has typically prevailed in recent Ashes series, and Australia are struggling after the ball tampering scandal that saw Steve Smith, David Warner and Cameron Bancroft exiled. It will give Root a final opportunity to tinker with his selections, and assess the claims of players like Jennings and Rashid for a place in the squad later this year. We should therefore be in for a gripping Test series and here at Sporting Index we have a comprehensive range of cricket spread betting options that will massively boost the excitement of following this series.