WHITE-BALL CRICKET RETURNS IN ANTIGUA
For England the three ODIs taking place in Antigua and Barbados (tough gig) will provide valuable preparation with all eyes on the Champions Trophy beginning in June.
That tournament will be of no concern to West Indies after they failed to qualify, and this represents another series where key names are inconspicuous by their absence.
Perhaps most notably, we will not be treated to another round of Ben Stokes versus Marlon Samuels. Samuels - who has been linked with a Kolpak offer from Derbyshire - has recently had his bowling cleared by the ICC after serving a 12-month ban for an illegal action. The WICB however have omitted the allrounder from the ODI squad after he elected to take part in Pakistan Super League matches over the Regional Super 50 competition.
Stokes versus Carlos Brathwaite, however, is a heavyweight clash we can hope to witness once more. Less than a year on from the WT20 Final at Eden Gardens, the echo of Brathwaite’s bat on ball still resonates.
England have warmed up for the three-match contest with wins over a UWI Vice Chancellor’s XI (by 117 runs) and the West Indies Cricket Board President’s XI (by two wickets) respectively.
England 379 for 8 beat UWI Vice Chancellor’s XI 262 all out by 117 runs
Roy (79), Root (71), Morgan (95), Stokes (61) were all in the runs as England posted 379 for 8 in the opener with Steve Finn recording figures of 4 for 22 from his four overs as the Vice Chancellor’s XI fell to 262 all out.
Liam Dawson and Adil Rashid bowled ten relatively miserly overs each, taking one wicket apiece, while Stokes was carted for 23 in his first over since becoming the IPL’s most expensive foreign import.
West Indies Cricket Board President’s XI 233 all out lost to England 234 for 8 by two wickets with seven balls remaining
Stokes had a far better time with the ball in the second warm-up match recording figures of 7-0-35-3. Liam Plunkett also helped himself to three wickets – his pace will be key in the absence of David Willey, Mark Wood and Jake Ball.
Jonny Bairstow’s 86 at the top of the order led the way as Billings, Buttler and Ali all failed to reach double figures. New Test skipper, Root, hit 46 and Chris Woakes’ unbeaten run-a-ball 47 saw England over the line.
Currently the batting outshines bowling; scores of 350 and 366 were not enough to win either of the first two ODIs at Pune and Cuttack. However, England did defend 321 in the third-and-final match at Kolkata.
With David Willey, Mark Wood and Jake Ball all out, England are struggling for consistency in the bowling ranks.
England will hope that Steven Finn and Plunkett can adequately fill the void. Plunkett played at Cuttack and Kolkata, taking three wickets, but was the most expensive of England’s bowlers in the series going for 7.80 an over. Meanwhile Finn has not played ODI cricket since September 2015.
As a result of Jake Ball’s injury, Surrey’s Tom Curran – who was away with the Lions squad in Sri Lanka ahead of a five-match one-day series - has received a call up.
With England’s bowling far from set in stone, could Curran force is way into the XI come June?
Alex Hales & Sam Billings: Room at the top?
The strides England have made since the 2015 World Cup have been well documented. Far from the pedestrian batting approach back in those shadowy days, the current crop represents an embarrassment of riches in comparison.
There can’t be many ODI XIs out there in which Jonny Bairstow and Sam Billings would find themselves surplus to requirements.
Where others have helped themselves to some easy runs, Billings (14 and 2) has had two relative failures in the warm-up fixtures, but his talent is plain to see.
And while Hales did not trouble the IPL auctioneer’s gavel, he has been a firm fixture opposite Jason Roy at the top of the order.
Hales hit 743 runs at 61.91 in 2016, scoring three hundreds. However the Nottinghamshire man has registered lowly scores of 8, 23, 9, and 14 since his record-breaking 171 at Trent Bridge.
While Hales remains sidelined with a hand injury, Billing will continue to deputise. But with his return imminent there may not be room at the top for both.
Huw Turbervill: 2-1 England
England have batting firepower to die for in Joe Root, Jason Roy, Sam Billings, back-to-form Eoin Morgan, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Ben Stokes.
West Indies’ batters are more mercurial, but their big guns are bound to come off in one game.
James Coyne: 2-1 England
One-day cricket doesn’t seem to do it for the star West Indians any more. West Indies failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy, and they're missing most of their big names. England look much better in every department, and should win easily. I wouldn’t be surprised if West Indies nick one game through one spectacular innings, though.
Owen Riley: 3-0 England
Balls out of the bath on this one. England have got too much for this West Indies team.
With three ODI hundreds to his name, Jason Roy has been threatening another with scores of 73, 82 and 65 in India. Before England pack up their beach towels, I’m backing Roy to have four in the ODI century column.
Jason Holder*, Devendra Bishoo, Carlos Brathwaite, Kraigg Brathwaite, Jonathan Carter, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Evin Lewis, Jason Mohammed, Ashley Nurse, Kieran Powell, Rovman Powell.
Eoin Morgan*, Jos Buttler, Jason Roy, Sam Billings, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jonny Bairstow, Moeen Ali, Liam Dawson, Adil Rashid, Chris Woakes, Liam Plunkett, Steven Finn, Tom Curran.