Nothing says summer quite like the crack of leather on willow as the test cricket season finally gets underway. While it has been delayed this year, it’s great to see the arrival of the West Indies side for a three-test series against England, starting 8th July at the Ageas Bowl. This will be followed by two further tests starting on the 16th and 24th at Old Trafford.
England have the rankings
England (4th) are four places above the West Indies (8th) in the current test rankings, with only Bangladesh and Zimbabwe below the tourists. Add in the English conditions, which favour the likes of Broad and Anderson, and England will be firm favourites for the series and may not be worth backing even at the best odds you can find. That said, in the last series against the Windies, they hardly dominated.
West Indies form
During their winter tour of the Caribbean, England lost their three-test series 1-2 in spectacular style. The first test saw England score just 77 runs in their first innings, and the second test wasn’t much better. With scores of just 187 and 132, they set their hosts a meagre 14 to win in the final innings. This stood in stark contrast to the final innings targets of 628 and 485 set by the Windies in the other two tests. If England are to prosper on home soil, their batsmen will have to find some answer to the fierce West Indies pace attack.Embed from Getty Images
Home form is all very well for the West Indies, but their performance in English conditions is less impressive. They had no dominant batsmen in the Cricket World Cup and not only lost to England by 8wickets with 17overs to spare, but also lost to lowly Bangladesh by 7wickets in 41.3overs and were bowled out by India in just 34.2overs. It would seem that England’s batting line up is not the only one that needs work.
Full strength squads
Both squads will be close to full strength, despite Windies captain, Jason Holder, insisting that no one would be forced to travel. Just three players declined the invitation: batsmen Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo, and Keemo Paul, the all-rounder. We will also be missing the antics of Sheldon Cottrell, though this was due to a selection issue not a refusal to travel. Sadly, we’ll never know if he would have behaved in the same flamboyant way with no crowd to play up to.
No love lost
The series marks the first time Barbados born paceman, Jofra Archer, will face his native West Indies on the test stage. Archer played with several of the current tourists in the West Indies under-19 side before changing his allegiance to England.
While there are no hard feelings, there is no love lost either, as fellow bowler Kemar Roach explained to BBC news: “Jofra has made his decision and is doing a fantastic job for his career,” he said, before adding: “There are no friendships with this series. It is all about winning and playing hard cricket.” When asked if his team would have any special sledging for Archer, Roach replied “We will see when that comes around. We will definitely see.”
The series will be live on Sky Sports, with daily highlights on BBC Two at 7pm and ball-by-ball radio coverage on Test Match Special.