England and the West Indies will face off in a three-match Test series in July after the coronavirus pandemic decimated the start of the cricket season in the northern hemisphere.
The 2020 IPL season is just one of many major cricket events to have been postponed. The T20 World Cup in Australia is also in serious doubt.
The Three Lions begin their campaign two months later than scheduled and will return to action in the five-day format for the first time since the end of January.
Joe Root’s men made a breakthrough under his captaincy by beating South Africa 3-1 on the road last time out. They will now be looking to carry that form forward on home soil against the Windies.
Jason Holder’s men overcame Afghanistan in their last Test action, although they were soundly beaten by India before taking on the newcomers to the five-day format.
The Windies defeated England in the Caribbean in 2019 and hold the Wisden Trophy, but they have failed to record an overseas victory over the Three Lions since 1988.
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The two teams last faced off in five-day action in the West Indies in 2019. Holder’s men produced fine performances in the opening two matches to defeat the England, delivering comfortable victories at Bridgetown and North Sound. England ended the series with a thumping win, but the Wisden Trophy was back in the hands of their rivals.
The Three Lions have been dominant against the West Indies on home soil, winning their last six series on the bounce. Holder and company last travelled to England in 2017, only to suffer a narrow defeat.
Root’s side won the opening encounter by an innings and 209 runs at Edgbaston courtesy of a double century from Alastair Cook. However, the Windies responded with a brilliant chase of 322 at Headingley as Shai Hope scored two centuries to restore parity in the series.
The decider offered the West Indies a huge opportunity to snatch the series. Ben Stokes and James Anderson rose to the occasion for England to skittle out the tourists twice for under 200, allowing the home side to ease to a nine-wicket win.
The Windies will be battling history as they’ve failed to avoid a series defeat on their trips to England since 1995 when Brian Lara, Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh were operating at the peak of their powers. It will take a strong effort for them to cause an upset this time around.
England have made a priority of selecting a huge raft of players to get them into shape for the series after missing three months of action. Chris Silverwood, Ed Smith, James Taylor and Root will be whittling down the squad ahead of the series. It is expected that England will have separate squads for this summer’s Test and T20 matches. Root will likely only be available for the Test team, while Stokes will also feature in the Tests. His importance to both teams cannot be understated, although his role as vice-captain of the Test side could supersede his limited-overs commitments.
Other than that England are well placed with their squad. Rory Burns will have been grateful for the time to recover from his groin injury suffered in South Africa. He will likely slot back into his role as opener alongside Dom Sibley, although Zak Crawley’s encouraging performances could cause a logjam at the top. Joe Denly could be the odd man out after failing to solidify his position.
Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler are battling for control of the gloves, although Ben Foakes can also lay a strong claim. Both Buttler and Bairstow are running out of chances in the five-day format. The bowling ranks are well stocked with James Anderson, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood all fit again. Stuart Broad and Sam Curran are likely to retain their places, leaving Anderson to fit into the final slot.
The Windies will be without Shimron Hetmyer, Darren Bravo and all-rounder Keemo Paul for the series after they pulled out of the tour due to coronavirus fears. Nkrumah Bonner and Chemar Holder have been called into the 14-man squad for the first time.
Kraigg Brathwaite and Shai Hope enjoyed a successful tour of England three years ago and will be the key cogs in the batting line-up. Kemar Roach has proven pedigree in English conditions, while Alzarri Joseph will look to continue the impressive start to his career.
Holder has been an excellent leader for the Windies and has developed into an outstanding pace bowler. He has a huge opportunity to end his side’s overseas struggles with the scalp of the 3rd ranked test side in the world. If you like betting on cricket underdogs, now is the time as there is likely to be significant rust for England’s stars and home advantage will be limited without the support of the home fans.
England are unbeaten on home soil since 2014 when they were defeated 1-0 by Sri Lanka. In familiar conditions no team can match England’s pace attack, who are the masters of swing and seam. Outside of Brathwaite and Hope there is not a great deal of depth in the Windies’ batting line-up. Their performances alone were enough to keep the series close three years ago. It will take another special effort from those two players to allow the West Indies to compete with England.
Roach, Holder and Joseph will need to thrive with the ball. Root and company have not produced flawless performances in their most recent Tests. However, England’s top order is slowly improving and rounding into a solid unit in the five-day format. The Windies attack is potent, but with Ollie Pope at six in the order – there’s enough strength in numbers for the home side to succeed.
The lack of time in the middle will no doubt affect both teams, which will make the first Test at the Ageas Bowl very interesting indeed. Catching England cold and short of match practice may be the Windies best hope of pulling off an upset.
Whether the tourists can hold up over the three matches of the series remains to be seen. England should have little difficulty securing the win on home soil due to the quality of their pace attack, featuring Broad, Anderson, Archer and Curran. Our top tip for cricket‘s return is England to the series 2-0.