England's brave new world?
England step into a brave new world in the Caribbean on Tuesday. Or they extend the lease on a foolish, arrogant old one.
For too long England's Test team have constantly had one eye on the future, short or long. The disastrous Ashes series was, among other embarrassments, characterised by them picking a team for the Test which would follow, instead of the here and now.
In omitting James Anderson and Stuart Broad for the three-Test series against a weak West Indies England have either made a decisive, bold call and called time on two greats. Or they have displayed the same conceited arrogance which has cost them dearly so many times before.
This should be the end for Anderson and Broad, whether you agree with it or not. Returning to the classy pair for the summer disrespects the West Indies and the fast bowlers they have picked to try to do something which Anderson and Broad never managed. In 50 years England have won once in the Caribbean. It's worse even than their record in Australia.
So although there is plenty to like about a varied attack which, for game one at least, should comprise Chris Woakes, Ollie Robinson, Mark Wood, Ben Stokes and Jack Leach or Matt Parkinson, England are hardly rock-solid series favourites at 4/5 with Sportsbook. There may be more takers on the home team at 21/10. The draw is 4/1. Bet the market here.
Runs in short supply
The West Indies, it has to be said, remain prone to absolute stinkers. The 2-0 hammering against Sri Lanka away in November was a desperately disappointing return.
They have not won a home series since they beat England in 2019. That's four attempts against India, South Africa, Sri Lanka and Pakistan. More stark is their record of match wins in that period. Over eight Tests they won just once. They lost five.
There is a hint of an upturn in fortune at home at least. They managed a 1-1 draw against Pakistan, winning a thrilling second Test by one wicket. That was largely down to Jayden Seales, a pacer of genuine promise.
Seales, classed as right-arm rapid, took 11 wickets in that series and he forms a potentially tricky triumvirate with Jason Holder and Kemar Roach. The addition of slow-left arm spinner Veerasammy Permaul, who outbowled Jomel Warrican in Sri Lanka, gives them a balanced attack.
With both bowling line-ups competitive, focus turns to the batters. A study of projected line-ups suggest an attritional, low-scoring affair similar to West Indies stalemate with Pakistan when the highest team score was 302.
In the last three years in their first innings, West Indies have made more than 350 twice in 18 attempts. England, away from home, have done it five times in 14.
Blackwood a bet
Jermaine Blackwood and Kraigg Brathwaite are old faithful for West Indies with the bat. On three-year form they have an identical run haul of 953 runs, although Blackwood has needed five fewer innings. The 5/1 that Sportsbook offer on Blackwood topping the home run charts is a fair bet. Brathwaite is 3/1. Nkrumah Bonner has the best average of the Windies players under the filter and 5/1 could also be considered generous.
Bet the market here/a>.
Joe Root has 1,200 more runs than the next best Englishman, Ben Stokes, in three years. No surprise that Root is 11/8 and Stokes 7/2. Bet the market here/a>.
England have a change in their opening berth with Alex Lees joining Zak Crawley. Lees, who stands tall and still at the crease, is already an improvement on the visually assaulting Rory Burns.
With both teams likely to struggle for big runs again, there is a clear strategy on series correct score market. Dutching the 2-1 scoreline for both makes sense. Unless weather intervenes it would be a surprise if either outfit were able to bat long enough for a draw.Bet the market here/a>.