England Test Series vs. West Indies - 1st Test Preview
England begin an epic year of cricket with three Tests against the West Indies. The first begins on January 23rd in Barbados as Joe Root’s men aim to kick off 2019 in style ahead of a summer which includes the World Cup and the Ashes.
The English ODI team have held top spot in the world rankings since last May and that supremacy in the one-day game appears to be inspiring the Test side. England’s Test team sits at number two in the world and Joe Root will be keenly eyeing India’s top spot this year. By contrast, the West Indies are slumped in eighth place and if they endured another poor year in 2018 there were at least some encouraging signs.
Plenty are backing England to overcome the Windies but there remain a few question marks over the side's ability to consistently deliver. Victory over Sri Lanka at the back end of 2018 proved England have the mettle to win on their travels and this West Indies side are a far cry from the fearsome ones of yore who would have relished a visit from the English.
England have been installed as early 2/1* favourites to win the World Cup in the summer and many already fancy their chances in the Ashes. Test cricket remains the bedrock of English cricket and this series in the Caribbean will be a fantastic early glimmer of what lies ahead this year.
Few in the current crop will dare look too far ahead though and this series is as much about building momentum as anything else. Taking on a West Indies side lacking experience and depth early in the 2019 preparations promises to instill another layer of confidence if England can get it right.
The First Test
The three-Test series begins in Barbados at the Three Ws Oval. The action gets underway on January 23rd and will be beamed live on Sky Sports with a potential five days of play commencing from 2pm UK time.
The Three W’s Oval is situated within the University of the West Indies in the suburban area of Cave Hill, some 4km north-west of Bridgetown, the capital of Barbados.
The ground is named after three legendary Barbados and West Indies cricketers – Sir Everton Weekes, Sir Frank Worrell and Sir Clive Walcott. The trio became a fearsome batting attack for the Windies during the 1940s and 50s. The sports stadium named in their honour was opened in 2010.
During its early years, the pitch at the Three Ws was often criticised as being a precarious one for batsman but the passage of time has at least made it a little kinder. The ground now offers a more sporting surface and teams tend to favour batting first. This remains a venue for spinners with the potential for some hostile attack at those who face them.
Who To Watch And Who To Back
England named an unchanged 16-man squad for this tour with wicket-keeper Ben Foakes and opener Rory Burns rewarded with a place on the back of impressive debuts in Sri Lanka. The squad is boosted with the inclusion of Ben Stokes who was cleared to play when the line-up was announced in December.
All-rounder Stokes joins captain Joe Root as the two true stars in the England side. Stokes excites crowds with his remarkable skill with bat and ball and provides true value with a safe pair of hands in the field. Root is the finest batsman of his generation and is a free-scoring stroke maker who oozes class. Both are worth backing in the betting markets.
For a Windies side still finding its feet after years of off-field turmoil, Chris Gayle is perhaps the pick of those to keep an eye on. When on song, Gayle can destroy a bowling attack with blistering batting and raw power. All-rounder Jason Holder and fast-bowler Shannon Gabriel are the others worth keeping an eye on in the individual player odds markets.
West Indies Vs. England Betting - Who’s Going To Win?
England are installed as 20/59* favourites with the West Indies pushed out as far as 15/4* to notch victory in this first Test in the series. The English should be filled with confidence but can little afford a slip up with such a big year to come, particularly against a Windies squad still to assert itself back on the Test stage.
However, the West Indies is never an easy place to visit for touring sides, no matter the state of the host’s current Test form, and home advantage should never be discounted when browsing the odds.
Winning Test matches away from home is as hard as ever, harder perhaps given the inconsistency dogging every nation of late. Only 12 Tests were won by visitors in 2018, a number broadly in line with the previous few years. It'll be tough for England but anything but a successful series will be viewed as an ominous portent for the big stuff to come in the summer.
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*All odds correct at the time of writing
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