West Indies v England ODI Series: Gayle return the perfect storm for Windies
The West Indies may have triumphed in the Tests but now all eyes are on one man going into the five game ODI series with England as Matthew Crist explains...
"The second most capped West Indies player of all time, Gayle has 284 appearances under his belt and will no doubt be licking his lips at the prospect of rejoining a potentially destructive batting unit ahead of the World Cup later this year."
Gayle forces the issue
Chris Gayle will make a sensational return to the West Indies one day squad for the first time since last July ahead of the five game series with England having missed recent tours to India and Bangladesh, and though something of a gamble his fire-power will undoubtedly strengthen an already potent batting lineup.
After declaring himself unavailable last October in order to play in the Afghanistan Premier League and the T10 League, Gayle - one of the most prolific batsmen in the history of West Indies cricket - stated that he wanted to take part in the series against Eoin Morgan's side and few would argue that his inclusion is a welcome bonus for a side desperate to stake their claim as one of the best ODI sides on the planet once again.
The second most capped West Indies player of all time, Gayle has 284 appearances under his belt and will no doubt be licking his lips at the prospect of rejoining a potentially destructive batting unit ahead of the World Cup later this year with any disruption caused by his return surely a price worth paying with the hosts [3.05] to take the first game of the series.
One eye on the World Cup
Currently ninth in the World Rankings the West Indies only advanced to the World Cup, which they are currently priced at [24.0] to win on the exchange, courtesy of the qualifiers and will see this series as the ideal preparation for the summer showpiece in England with Gayle just one of a number of changes to the side but without doubt the most eye catching.
Ashley Nurse returns to the team after missing the final two ODI games with India through injury while Marlon Samuels sits-out the series because of a knee problem and is replaced by hard-hitting debutant wicket keeper/batsman Nicholas Pooran, who might just ask questions of England's bowling attack.
Meanwhile, Shannon Gabriel misses the first four games through suspension as the hulking Oshane Thomas comes in to take his place, and hero of the 2016 T20 World Cup Carlos Brathwaite - who hit four final over sixes off Ben Stokes to land the trophy - misses out, as does Andre Russell who is suffering from knee problems
Having made a successful return to the Test side Captain Jason Holder is back in the reckoning while big hitter Evin Lewis - who had withdrawn from the India tour for personal reasons - is recalled to the squad as he looks to form another formidable partnership with Chris Gayle once more.
England on a high
As for Eoin Morgan's ODI side - who are currently ranked the best side in the world - they enter the series with the West Indies on a high having swept aside their opponents 3-0 in the Caribbean and 4-0 at home back in 2017.
The current [3.45] favourites to claim World Cup glory on home soil this summer recall David Willey to the side after missing out on the weather-affected tour of Sri Lanka towards the end of 2018 while Sam Curran, Liam Dawson and Olly Stone have been left out.
But England will be well aware that their test side arrived in the Caribbean full of confidence only to be dispatched comfortably in the opening two games of the series and will be keen to avoid complacency this time around when it comes to the shorter form of the game.
Gayle can be the difference
With 9,727 ODI runs to his name since making his debut in 1999 Chris Gayle will be looking to stake his claim for a final World Cup appearance and is currently 2/1 to be top run scorer over the series as he looks to bow out on a high despite questions regarding the 39-year old's ability to get through 50 overs.
Gayle will be looking to resume a pretty lethal partnership with Evin Lewis, who himself can be backed at 2/1 to top the runs charts over the series with England, while the returning Jason Holder - a central figure as the West Indies secured a first series win over England since 2009 with an average of 114.5 - is a 7/1 chance.
As for England, in their last ODI tour of Sri Lanka back in October, it was a case of the usual suspects in the runs and Eoin Morgan can be backed at 11/2 to score the most again this time around with Joe Root as short as 5/2.
But batting is a very different prospect in the caribbean - as the Test batsmen know all too well - and an impressive showing from Ben Stokes during the third and final test of the five day format of the game make the all rounder, who is surely brimming with confidence, a tempting prospect at 16/1.