Ed Hawkins previews this contest, which starts in Antigua on Monday, and says England's poor away form leaves them susceptible to a shock...
"England’s record in the first Test of an away series is horrific in the last ten years. In 14 of them they have won once. And that was against Bangladesh. Otherwise they have lost nine."
West Indies v England
Start time: 15:00BST
TV: live on Sky Sports
As usual with West Indies, they are missing key players because of IPL commitments. There is no Chris Gayle, Lendl Simmons or Dwayne Bravo but there are a core of senior players who could still trouble England.
The side is led by wicketkeeper-batsman Denesh Ramdin and they have quality players in key positions. Devon Smith is a durable opener, Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels the strokemakers, Shiv Chanderpaul the middle-order limpet and Suliemann Benn is as an aggressive spinner with a decent record in the last year. Kraigg Braithwaite, just 22 and vice-captain, has been something of a run machine in the last 12 months.
They also possess pace. Jerome Taylor, who destroyed England on their last tour, is fit again and he could form a potent partnership with Kemar Roach and Jason Holder.
On the face of it England's squad looks an attempt at trying to usher in a bright new era following a harrowing 12 months. But none from the uncapped trio of Adam Lyth, Adil Rashid and Mark Wood are expected to play.
Instead, England will forge a new opening partnership with Alastair Cook and the returning Jonathan Trott and heavily rely on James Anderson and Stuart Broad for wickets.
Cook and Trott as No 1 and No 2 is probably about as solid as it gets. But it is also about as dull as it gets and England's innings could be something of a war of attrition until the more fluent Ian Bell arrives at the crease. There is also the possibility that Ben Stokes could squeeze into the XI at No 6, which would at least provide some spark.
England have had two rather meaningless warm-up matches in St Kitts and that buzz word, 'undercooked', could be used in the next few days to explain any hint of sluggishness.
England are 1.564/7 with West Indies 5.14/1 and the draw 4.67/2. There is no surprise at the skinny nature of England's price. West Indies are a poor side and in ten years they have won only two series from 27 attempts against top eight nations. West Indies have lost six of the last seven at home 1-0 or 2-0 respectively. England are 5.24/1 and 4.1 for either.
Rather foolishly, the new ECB chief executive gave West Indies all the motivation they needed by describing them as mediocre. Can we make a case for them in the opener then given the reliability of English cricket administrators?
Probably. West Indies have a poor record over the last few years. But let's look at their core again. They have experience, runs and stickability there. But it's with the ball where they could shock England. Pace is a vital commodity. If Taylor, Holder and Roach were able to find some consistency they could be in the frame. Indeed, Roach has the best strike rate in the last 12 months of any bowler on show.
Any wager, of course, would require England to suffer a slow start, particularly Broad and Anderson. Mind you, they have hardly been reliable of late. And England's record in the first Test of an away series is horrific in the last ten years. In 14 of them they have won once. And that was against Bangladesh. Otherwise they have lost nine.
We know the hosts have myriad issues and that's largely why they are as big as 7.26/1, but do we want to be backing England at 2.01/1 (the draw is 2.77/4)? No. What if West Indies were to get a bit of help from a dodgy pitch.
There have been only three Tests played at the Sir Vivian Richards stadium at North Sound. And one of those was abandoned (against England in 2009) because the outfield was unplayable. They produced first dig scores of 479 for seven (Australia) and 351 (New Zealand). There is a concern, though, about the pitch. In first-class cricket since the Kiwi Test, it has been a minefield to bat on. Here are the first-innings scores: 139, 94, 240, 129, 182. Could this be a shootout?
Top West Indies runscorer
Braithwaite is the Windies' top bat in the last 12 months with 724 runs at 68. He is 5.04/1. Chanderpaul, who has a superb record against England, has 556 at 61. He is 3.7511/4.
Top England runscorer
Cook and Bell have looked in good nick in the warm-ups but Trott less so. Cook is 4.57/2 and Bell 5.04/1. Gary Ballance is 5.59/2 and Joe Root 5.04/1.
Back West Indies @ 7.26/1
Ed Hawkins P/L
Ed Hawkins P/L
2014: +315.10 (ROI 27%)
2013: +250.80 (ROI 25%)
To £10 level stakes, based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice
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