CRICKET | England head to West Indies in preparation for ICC Champions Trophy
By George Marrable
England will go head to head with the West Indies this week, as the visitors look to prepare for the upcoming ICC Champions Trophy.
West Indies will host the visit of England, where the sides will play a short three game ODI series, starting with the first ODI in Antigua on Friday 3rd March. The visitors will be looking to redeem themselves after a fairly inconsistent time in India. England were dominated in the test series, before performing slightly better in the shorter form of the game.
After so much turmoil in the past couple of months, it will come as a relief to players and management alike for a few games to take the glare of them. All eyes have been on the England side after their poor tour of India, and subsequent removal of Alistair Cook from test captain.
Joe Root has since been appointed to the role, and he features in the 14-man squad for the series. Led for the series by Eoin Morgan, there is very few surprises in the squad, with a relatively standard squad we are used to seeing from England.
One absentee in the squad is Alex Hales who, although will be joining up with the squad in Antigua, is ruled out with a broken hand. This is likely to mean that young Kent batsman Sam Billings will get another chance to impress at the top of the innings, alongside hot-shot Jason Roy.
Alongside Root and Morgan, wicketkeepers Jonny Bairstow and Jos Buttler are in the squad, giving England two very strong options with the gloves. Buttler will be looking to bring his famous fireworks to proceedings during the series. All-rounders Moeen Ali, Ben Stokes and Chris Woakes offer some versatility to the side. Stokes will have a particularly hard mental battle on his hand, as he faces up against Carlos Brathwaite – the man who crushed his dreams in the World Cup Final.
There are plenty of options in England’s bowling attack, as Adil Rashid and Liam Dawson offer another spin option. However, in a series where the pitches are expected to be hard and flat, they may have a tough time. The squad is rounded off with quick bowlers Liam Plunkett, Steven Finn and Jake Ball, with all three’s height and extra yard of pace looking to make the difference in the series. It is a well-balanced squad for England, with the only gamble being whether Billings can perform at the top of the order.
Led by Jason Holder coming into the series, West Indies sit ninth in the ICC ODI rankings, four places behind their visitors. They come into the game with a relatively inexperienced side for the series. The squad reeks of experimentation for this series, after the side failed to qualify for the ICC Champions Trophy.
Opening batsman Kieran Powell is recalled to the side, nearly three years since his last ODI match. Powell stands out as one of the danger men in the side, and will be hoping to get West Indies off to a flying start. He is joined in the side by his namesake – batsman Rovman Powell.
Alongside the two Powell’s, there is also two Brathwaite’s. Big-man Carlos Brathwaite, who won West Indies the T20 World Cup last year against England, is joined by opener Kraigg Brathwaite for the series.
Wicketkeeper batsman Shai Hope also features in the side, hoping to provide some runs in the middle order, with Devendra Bishoo providing a left arm spin option. Bishoo could be crucial for West Indies in the series, given England’s difficulties playing left arm spin.
Notable absentees from the side include Dwayne and Darren Bravo, and Marlon Samuels, who isn’t included despite being cleared of an illegal action. The side are also without Andre Russell, after he was suspended for one year on a doping whereabouts rule violation.
It will prove to be a difficult series for West Indies without their crucial experienced players, and England will be confident of kicking off their ICC Champions Trophy preparation with a series win.
The first ODI between West Indies and England starts in Antigua on Friday 3rd March, 1:30pm GMT.
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