England Test Series vs. West Indies - Guide
In the modern era, we are typically treated to two overseas tours by England over the winter. After sweeping aside Sri Lanka 3-0 in November, England will begin 2019 with a trip to the West Indies, where they will play three Test matches.
While not the force they were in the 1970s and 1980s, the 'Windies' will still pose an interesting challenge which will allow us to gauge just how far England have come as a Test team over the past couple of years.
When and where are the matches?
Ahead of the limited overs series, England and West Indies will contest three Test matches:
1st Test - Barbados (Kensington Oval) - Wednesday 23rd to 27th January
2nd Test - Antigua (Sir Vivian Richards Stadium) - Monday 31st January to 4th February
3rd Test - St Lucia (Darren Sammy National Cricket Stadium) - Saturday 9th February to 13th February
Where to watch it?
If you live in the UK, you can watch England's Tour of the West Indies on Sky Sports. Radio commentary will be provided by Talksport.
Who are the favourites?
England, available at 1/2* to win the 1st Test, are the overwhelming favourites, having won eight out of their last nine Test matches. The current group is an exciting collection of talents which is bursting with all-rounders such as Ben Stokes, Jos Butler, Moeen Ali and Jonny Bairstow. Their best batsman, Joe Root, also seems to be finding his feet as a Test captain.
However, England do have enough frailties to make any game a contest. The top of their batting order is far from settled, with the top three spots representing something of a revolving door in terms of personnel.
West Indies, 3/1* to win the 1st Test, are coming off the back of four straight Test losses in India and Bangladesh; however, their recent record on home soil makes for more positive reading. They have won their last three Test matches at home, against Sri Lanka and Bangladesh, and will be hoping to carry that form into the series with England.
Inexperience is one of the Windies' weak spots, as many of the more illustrious West Indian cricketers - such as Chris Gayle, Darren Sammy and Sunil Narine - are typically unavailable for Test matches, plying their trade in the lucrative Twenty20 tournaments around the world. However, the Windies can have faith that the recent tough tours to the Asian subcontinent will have furthered the development of promising batsmen such as Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer. They have the experience of fast bowlers Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel to call upon and are led by a determined and capable captain in all-rounder Jason Holder, who sat out the Bangladesh Tour with a shoulder injury.
Who won the last Test series between West Indies and England?
The Windies visited England for three Test matches in Summer 2017. Despite coming into the series as heavy favourites, the Windies pulled off an unexpected win at Headingley to level the series 1-1, before England sealed the series victory with a nine-wicket win at Lord's.
England last played a Test match in the West Indies back in 2015, when they lost by five wickets in the 3rd Test in Barbados, allowing West Indies to draw the series 1-1. Could that victory prove to be an omen for the 1st Test at the same ground?
Battle of the spinners?
While the West Indies used to be associated with fast, bouncy tracks, these days the wickets can be just as likely to be dust bowls which take a turn. For that reason, rather than a high-pace shootout, the forthcoming England series could come down to a battle of the spinners.
West Indies are fairly well equipped in that department and have recent experience of spinning pitches following their exertions on the Asian subcontinent. Leg spinner Devendra Bishoo, with 36 Test caps and 117 wickets to his name, leads the spin attack, and he is backed up by useful off spinner and all-rounder Roston Chase. They also have the option of slow left armer Jomel Warrican.
Unfortunately for the Windies, England are riding high after recently conquering Sri Lanka by spin. After being recalled to the side, Adil Rashid finally looks at home in his role as game-changing leg spinner, and he is more than ably supported by the off breaks of Moeen Ali. Should England need to call upon a third spinner, left armer Jack Leach played a big role in the Sri Lanka win and could be called up on this tour.
Bet UK's Betting Tips
It is hard to see the England steam train slowing down, but one thing is for sure - the Windies will battle with pride on home soil, and if they can expose England's potentially shaky top order, things could get interesting.
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