Apex Test Series: History, bruised England make West Indies favourites


West Indies versus England, a rivalry which started in 1928, will continue from Tuesday (March 8) at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, with the first of three Test matches.

The touring England side is missing several key players, especially from a bowling perspective. The iconic duo James Anderson and Stuart Broad with over 1,100 wickets was dropped after the Ashes hammering in Australia, and the promising Ollie Robinson will miss the first Test due to back spasms.

It means Chris Woakes (42 Tests), Mark Wood (25 Tests) and probably Craig Overton (six Tests) will form the fast-bowling trio with possible support from Ben Stokes.

The Englishmen have only won in the Caribbean once in 50 years – 2004 – and on their last visit in 2019, West Indies won 2-1, with convincing victories in the first two Tests.

West Indies are ranked eighth as against England at four, but on home turf against the Englishmen, the Caribbean side has been the superior team

Over the last two decades or more, West Indies’ batting has been the gray area, but there is a chance to flourish against a relatively inexperienced attack in these conditions.

However, Head Coach Phil Simmons noted at the pre-match briefing that England’s recent misfortunes and absence of key players do give the hosts a mental advantage, but it is nothing they should use to become over confident.

Familiarity could be a good thing for West Indies as captain Kraigg Brathwaite has been reunited with John Campbell at the top of the order. The two had given West Indies some handy starts against a farm more superior English attack in 2019.

West Indies Head Coach, Phil Simmons

Campbell’s return, based on a century during the recent Regional Four-Day Championship, is another quest by selectors to find a consistent partner for Brathwaite.

Nkrumah Bonner should retain his place at three and an interesting call would be whether they go for Shamarh Brooks at four, which could mean another pacer sits out, or Kyle Mayers, which allows room for another bowler.

Simmons hinted that the conditions in Antigua are quite similar to recent years, and left-arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul could play, to initially offer a “holding role” then more attacking on days three to five.

In 2019, West Indies’ pacers took over 47 of the 55 English wickets to fall, and another pace-barrage is on the cards. Weather permitting, play will get underway at 10:00h.

West Indies squad for first Test: Kraigg Brathwaite (Captain), Jermaine Blackwood (Vice-Captain), Nkrumah Bonner, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Joshua Da Silva, Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Veerasammy Permaul, Anderson Phillip, Kemar Roach and Jayden Seales.

England squad for first Test: Joe Root (Captain), Jonny Bairstow, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes (wk), Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Alex Lees, Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes and Mark Wood.

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