Ed Hawkins previews game one from Bridgetown, Barbados on Wednesday and hopes for improvement from the hosts...
"Hope (probably forlorn) that Windies get a foothold and prices of [1.70] come available for England. For example, we would bet them to get 350-360 in a chase."
West Indies v England
Wednesday 20 February 15.00
TV: Live on Sky Sports
If West Indies' 2-1 success in the Test series counted as a shock to most observers, beating England in the ODI format to follow will have a far greater register on the Richter scale. West Indies are a poor ODI team, England are the best in the world.
The hosts have not won a series for more than four years, beating Bangladesh in August 2014. Since then, they have a match win percentage of 29%. Not surprising that they were forced to qualify for this summer's World Cup. They nearly didn't manage it, requiring rain to rescue them against Scotland.
It's a little hard to fathom in terms of batters because in Shai Hope and Shimron Hetmyer they have two whose records stand up to scrutiny among the best. Evin Lewis is a dangerous, if up-and-down, opener. Likewise Chris Gayle, who will quit after the World Cup.
The key man, as ever, is Jason Holder reinstalled as skipper after his over-rate ban for the final Test. He is No 1 on their wickets lists and No 2 on the runs lists for the last two years. It is with the ball that the Windies struggle. With only Holder striking at under 40 they are going to find it hard to check England's rate.
England so strong
England warmed up for this one by strolling to victory over a University of West Indies Vice Chancellor's XI. Men against boys with the margin of victory. Just the 171 runs. Whether that means England are undercooked remains to be seen but they keep things pretty simple: see ball, smash it.
While England were once criticised for using Test players in ODI, perhaps the reverse is now true. It is entirely possible that their flaky performances in the long form are down to the wham-bang-thank-you-mam efforts in ODI.
Of course in this format it doesn't matter that their batsmen try to whack everything. Jason Roy (touted for a Test call, by the way), Jonny Bairstow, Eoin Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali are darn good at it. Even Joe Root, whose place has looked a little shaky, was in the mood with a ton in the warm-up. Buttler, who was rested for that one, is sure to return.
Pace bowling duties will be split by Mark Wood, who will be told to bowl as fast as possible, Liam Plunkett, Chris Woakes and Ben Stokes. Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid offer spin options.
Good vibes for tourists
There have been only five ODI played at Bridgetown in the last ten years. Four of those were won by the team fielding first. The scores in those matches (1 denotes match won by team batting first, most recent first) read: 328-1/248-171-239-117. England were responsible for that 328 in 2017. They bowled out Windies for 141.
The scale of tasks facing hosts is stark
West Indies are [3.3] and England [1.42]. On that win percentage, then, the Windies cannot be described as value. On two-year form their rate dips further to 27.5% so they should be more like [3.6].
For the record, England have a win rate of 79% over the same study period - that's 31 wins and eight losses. If there is a chink it's defending scores. Six defeats came when they were batting first and they do have a tendency to be profligate. We don't forget their record-breaking implosion against the Scots last year.
With that in mind their best chance may be an absolute road, fielding first and then the likes of Hope and Hetmyer can trouble England in a chase. Still, we're clutching at straws a little and it should not be forgotten that England won all seven of their meetings in 2017.
In reality, the best way to play is to hope (probably forlorn) that Windies get a foothold and prices of [1.70] come available for England. For example, we would bet them to get 350-360 in a chase.
Root looking good
Root is ticking along rather nicely. His century in the final Test, followed up by the warm-up ton, should mean he is in the mood here. He should have good vibes, too, because of the 101 he plundered on this ground two years ago. In those seven meetings Root has the most run of any Englishman but Bairstow the best average - 302 in five. He should go off at jolly for top England bat.
Holder is not a bad shout for top West Indies bat honours. He is consistent and redoubtable, often rescuing Windies after a top-order failure. The 2017 contests were before Hetmyer's time but England know he is a danger from the Test series. Hope managed 201 runs in those, pipped by Lewis with 229.
Ed Hawkins P-L
Based only on available prices. Does not include back-to-lay in-running match advice or commission rate. Figures 2013-2016 on 1pt level stakes. New points system (0.5pt-5) introduced for 2017. Includes Hawk-Eye stats column p-l
Back England in-running [1.70] or better