England Strong Betting Favourites for West Indies TestsJames Nixon |
Test cricket returns on 8 July as England host the West Indies at the Ageas Bowl in the first of a three-match series.
It will be the first time in almost six months that Joe Root’s side have played the longest form of the game. England won their latest Test series 3-1 in South Africa over the winter but now face the Caribbean contingent with two matches at Old Trafford following the opener.
These are also the first international cricket games on home soil since a memorable and dramatic draw Ashes series with Australia last summer. The Windies aren’t expected to provide the same stiff competition as that opposition from Down Under, though.
According to the cricket betting on the first Test, England are strong 27/100 favourites to win the match. The West Indies are 8/1 outsiders to cause an upset in Southampton, while a drawn game is 19/4.
A weakened Windies team gives England every chance of winning this Test series, but there are some things for captain Root and head coach Chris Silverwood to try and iron out. This series should be a golden opportunity for the skipper himself to put some big scores on the board.
Root has only made one Test century at home in three years. That has caused his England batting average to slip to 48.40, and that is below the exalted standards he has previously set. Perhaps it is the burden of being captain.
Singling Root out is hardly fair when the openers haven’t exactly pulled their weight in the run-scoring department in recent times. What this home with the Windies may do is afford England the luxury of experimenting at the top of the order.
There is a 55-man training squad including 14 players as yet uncapped for the ECB selectors to choose from. That will be whittled down as the Test series approaches, but there are new names and combinations to be considered.
England have missed the sure and steady presence of Sir Alastair Cook, Root’s predecessor as captain, among the opening batsmen. He was a throwback to previous generations not brought up on limited-overs cricket with its overemphasis on aggressive
play at the crease.
Finding someone so similarly level-headed for the start of an innings in the Test arena is a key ingredient England need to add back into their team. This presents a unique opportunity to try out candidates without having to worry too much about it harming the hosts’ chances of winning.
Not that Root and Silverwood can afford to be complacent. England don’t want to suffer embarrassment in a form of the game they have been accused of neglecting in favour of limited-overs, because there is no longer the excuse of the Cricket World Cup on home soil as a target.
The West Indies represents another staging post on the journey that culminates in heading Down Under for the next Ashes series the winter after next. England must justify their status as firm favourites.
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