Dominant England Face Buoyant Windies With One Eye on World Cup
The buoyant Windies side will look to feed off the success of their Test side when they take on one of the 2019 World Cup hot favourites England in the first One-Day International of the five-match series at the Kensington Oval in Barbados on Wednesday (February 20).
Having defeated England 2-1 in the recently-concluded Test series, the Jason Holder-led side will try to turn their fortunes around in the 50-over format as well. The home team will be bolstered by the return of Chris Gayle, who is set to retire from ODIs after the mega-event in England and Wales.
Windies have struggled heavily in ODIs in the last few years. They failed to make it to the 2017 Champions Trophy and then had to go through a qualifying tournament in Zimbabwe to confirm their spot in the World Cup.
Windies were already without Sunil Narine and Andre Russell, and then they were forced to amend their original squad for the first two ODIs with injuries ruling out opening batsman Evin Lewis and all-rounders Rovman Powell and Keemo Paul. John Campbell, who impressed in the Test series, will most likely open with Gayle who himself will have a point to prove.
On Sunday, the 39-year-old veteran of four World Cups revealed that the 2019 event will be his farewell to the format, although he entertains hopes of representing the region at the end of 2020 when the Windies will be defending the World T20 title in Australia.
Apart from Campbell, T20I captain Carlos Brathwaite and left-arm fast bowler Sheldon Cottrell were the other two inclusions. The regional selectors also have to contend with the unavailability of Shannon Gabriel until the final match after the fast bowler was slapped with a four-match ban after admitting to uttering a homophobic slur at Root during the third and final Test in St Lucia.
The series will provide the likes of Gayle, Darren Bravo, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicholas Pooran, Holder, Kemar Roach and Oshane Thomas an opportunity to test their skills against a quality English side, while few of the other newcomers will try to push their claim for the World Cup spot by performing well in the series.
Meanwhile, Eoin Morgan's dominant English side are currently placed at the top of the ICC ODI rankings and a comfortable 171-run victory in their lone warm-up fixture on Sunday suggests that they will not be hamstrung by the challenges encountered by the Test team against surprisingly competitive and fiercely motivated Windies.
While Jason Roy and Joe Root crafted fluent hundreds in a total of 371 for 7, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and Adil Rashid scalped two wickets each to dismantle University of West Indies' Vice-Chancellor's XI.
England's squad is filled with match-winners. They bat very deep and always go with six to seven bowling options. Even someone like Rashid who bats at No. 11 can contribute in the batting department. The likes of Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Morgan, Ben Stokes, Roy, Alex Hales and Mooen Ali can rip apart any bowling attack while Root is the thread that holds the entire batting unit together.
In the bowling department, along with Moeen and Stokes, David Willey, Woakes, Wood, Rashid and Tom Curran are as effective as you can get.
England haven't lost a bilateral ODI series since January 2017 and will go into this series as favourites, but at the same time, they will be acutely aware of the embarrassing reversals suffered by their Test team against opposition which was lightly-regarded before the first ball was bowled on this tour at Kensington Oval last month.
Windies: Fabian Allen, Devendra Bishoo, Darren Bravo, Chris Gayle, Shimron Hetmyer, Jason Holder (capt), Shai Hope, John Campbell, Ashley Nurse, Carlos Brathwaite, Nicholas Pooran, Sheldon Cottrell, Kemar Roach, Oshane Thomas.
England: Eoin Morgan (capt), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler, Tom Curran, Joe Denly, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
(With inputs from AFP)