England vs West Indies, 1st Test, Preview – Dominant Ben Stokes-led side aims to resume international cricket on a high

England vs West Indies, 1st Test, Preview – Dominant Ben Stokes-led side aims to resume international cricket on a high

The last time these two teams locked horns was in the Wisden Trophy held in 2019. Despite being the favourites, England lost the series 2-1.

England vs West Indies
England vs West Indies. (Photo Source: Getty Images)

The last we had the privilege of watching an international cricket match was long ago in March. A deadly pathogen derailed the world and international sports, much like everything, had no place in the new order. In the months gone by, the best of brains have spent time deliberating and formulating ways to bring back normalcy.

Amidst innumerable changes, restrictions, lockdown, players falling ill, and ever-changing guidelines, the England Cricket Board (ECB) has managed to make things fall in their right place.

And it’s finally here! After a heart-wrenching partition of cricket with its fans for nearly 4 months, International action is all set to resume as the West Indies tours England for a three-Test series starting from July 8th. The visitors arrived in England with a 25-men squad last month and have been following multiple precautions and quarantine ever since.

While it’s heartening to know that the never-ending wait is finally coming to an end, the cricket-lovers will have to come on terms with the new normal of cricket. A plethora of guidelines issued by the ICC to ensure the safety of players has changed the traditional form of the game in myriad ways.

Saliva can no longer be used to shine the ball, there’s an additional DRS review available to each team as matches will have non-neutral umpires, players need to maintain social distancing and therefore, post-wicket celebrations, making the huddle, and handshakes after the match won’t be allowed. It remains to be seen how the changed form of sports looks like in reality.

The last time these two teams locked horns was in the Wisden Trophy held in 2019. Despite being the favourites, England lost the series 2-1 and will surely seek redemption this time as West Indies visit them. Whereas placed at No. 8 in the ICC Test rankings, West Indies can surely take inspiration from their last meet and believe that they can replicate their performance.

The England team looks much balanced when compared with the West Indies. In addition to lacking balance and some handy players, West Indies is the visitor and not the host, unlike 2019. Their batsmen need to up the ante and play with responsibility as efforts similar to the ones given in the practice match won’t help their cause.

It’s an exciting series and much more for it marks the resumption of cricket after long. However, purely from a cricketing perspective, England starts as the obvious favourites. While England will undoubtedly miss their Barmy Army, they would want to start their season with a victory.

Playing Combinations

England

Coming back to the good news, England announced their 13-men squad for the first Test on Saturday. In the absence of Joe Root, who misses out due to family reasons, Ben Stokes is up to skipper the English camp with Jos Butler as the vice-captain. England has dropped Moeen Ali whereas Jonny Bairstow’s exclusion means that Buttler is also the designated wicket-keeper.

Returning after an injury, Rory Burns, in all probability, will open alongside Dom Sibley. With the likes of Joe Denly and Ollie Pope, the other members of the England squad were predictable, to say the least.

Their bowling-unit is decorated with the ravaging-duo of Stuart Broad and James Anderson– who will be wearing whites for the 151st time in his career. Extending their arm, Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood will fix the pace attack of England whereas Dom Bess is the lone spinner.

Predicted XI- Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Joe Denly, Ollie Pope, Ben Stokes (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Chris Woakes, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, Dom Bess, James Anderson.

Substitutes- Stuart Broad, Zak Crawley

Bench- James Bracey, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Sam Curran, Jack Leach, Craig Overton, Olly Stone

West Indies

Contrastingly, West Indies must be concerned with the lacklustre performance of their batting order in the practice games. With Kraigg Braithwaite, John Campbell, and Shamarh Brooks their unit fails to make much of an impact. However, Shai Hope and Roston Chase will have a bigger role to play as West Indies will miss the services of Shiron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo, who made themselves unavailable for selection citing personal affairs.

Skipper Jason Holder’s form is not too pleasant as he failed to perform with the bat in the practice match and bowled merely 5 overs. The Windies bowling attack, however, can trouble the England batting line-up as they have five pacers in Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph, Shannon Gabriel, Raymond Reiffer, and Chemar Holder.

Predicted XI- Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shai Hope, Shamrah Brooks, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich (wk), Jason Holder (c), Rakheem Cornwall, Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph.

Substitutes- Chemar Holder, Rayman Reifer, Jermaine Blackwood

Bench- Joshua da Silva, Sunil Ambris, Kyle Mayers, Keon Harding, Shane Moseley, Marquino Mindley, Anderson Phillip, Oshane Thomas, Jamel Warrican

Head to head

Played- 157, England won- 49, West Indies won- 57, Drawn- 51

Stat Attack

102 – Jason Holder needs another 102 runs to become the 39th player to reach 2000-run landmark in Tests.

200 – Kemar Roach (193) is on the brink of 200 Test wickets

100 – Chris Woakes (95) is just 5 shy from 100 Test wickets.

100 – James Anderson has taken 93 catches and is only 7 away from becoming the 10th England player to take 100 catches in Test cricket.

Broadcast details

Match timings – 11:00 am local time, 3:30 PM IST

TV – Sony Six, Sony Six HD, Sony Ten Sports 1, and Sony Ten Sports 1 HD

Live Streaming- The match can be streamed online at SonyLIV