By Kieran Wellington
- Jofra Archer and Mark Wood will come in direct competition with West Indies’ battery of pace bowlers – expect some fierce deliveries on Friday
- Oshane Thomas, Sheldon Cottrell and Andre Russell have taken 15 wickets between them so far – the same number as Archer, Wood and Ben Stokes
- All of West Indies’ 22 wickets in the World Cup to this point have been taken by pace bowlers
SOUTHMPTON, UK – Something different will be heading England’s way in Southampton on Friday – and it will be heading at them quickly as they face up to the West Indies.
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It has been a trial by spin at the top of the order so far for Jason Roy and Jonny Bairstow, both of whom have lost their wickets cheaply to a slow bowler. But with Ashley Nurse as the only frontline spinner in the West Indies 15 – and with an ODI bowling average of 42 – it is the biggest weakness in Jason Holder’s side.
If West Indies have any sense, they will stick to what they’re good at and not try to copy what’s worked for other sides, especially as Bairstow and Roy shared a 128-run opening stand against Bangladesh, with their top spinner Shakib Al Hasan – the best ODI all-rounder in the world – sending down 10 wicketless overs at an economy of 7.10.
But that could play into England’s hands, who relish pace on the ball in white-ball cricket.
West Indies have brought the fire
Whatever happens on Friday, West Indies will be a joy to watch. Not much needs to be said about the CV of Chris Gayle, or the Universe Boss, as Gayle self-proclaims. Shai Hope’s batting can also be worth the entrance fee alone – with comparisons to Windies legend Brian Lara made when Hope scored a sensational Test hundred in both innings at Headingley to win his country the match almost single-handedly.
But all the talk will be centered around their bowling line-up. Even in the World Cup warm-ups, they were an attack to be feared – Andre Russell (AKA DreRuss – they all have really cool nicknames, don’t they?) firing a short-pitched delivery into Aussie batsman Usman Khawaja’s grille, forcing the Queenslander to retire hurt. Despite this statement of intent, it is Sheldon Cottrell who exudes all of what gives West Indies the tag of entertainers.
Every time the left-armer takes a wicket, the former Jamaican Defence Force soldier marches, salutes and opens his arms to the heavens – a celebration that wouldn’t look out of place in a school playground. And that what makes Holder’s side so special – the captain has made sure that his team enjoy their cricket first and foremost, and the results are almost secondary to a high-energy, entertaining performance.
This has brought life back into Windies cricket that threatened to cease to exist with players holding huge, and public, disputes with the CWI (West Indies’ cricket board). But they have also regained a fast-bowling armoury – although nowhere near the quality of the dominant Windies attack of the 80s – that can strike fear into an opposition batting line-up, and gets people on the edge of their seats.
In their three matches so far, Cottrell and co have embarrassed Pakistan, reduced Australia to 79-5 and taken two quick wickets in the seven overs possible in their no result vs South Africa.
Bairstow and Roy must ride the storm the West Indies will bring to England’s south coast – as long as there isn’t a literal storm ruining the cricket as it has done for the majority of this week!
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Archer will be the main storyline again – but England’s guile may rule over gusto
Speed-gun creators must get giddy with excitement with Jofra Archer and Mark Wood bounding in for England. Not since Freddie Flintoff and Steve Harmison have England had two 90+mph bowlers steaming in in tandem. Not only have the pair been bowling quickly, they have been among the wickets, with 10 between them from a combined 44 overs.
This will be the first time Archer faces up against the side he was eligible for before he switched allegiances this summer, and the reason the Sussex man didn’t want to become a Windies international stems back to a decision to leave him out of an under-19 World Cup.
But this is the big time now – elite-level adults at the top of their game all straining every sinew to disrupt their opponent. Archer must find the balance which he lost in the defeat against Pakistan by bowling too short, missing the effortless control that he exhibited in England’s other two matches so far.
If he gets caught up in the occasion, and the fact Windies have the aggression in their bowling attack to genuinely rival Archer, the inexperienced 24-year-old may stray from what makes him such a special bowler. Thankfully, England have a far better balanced bowling attack than the Windies, which may well be the difference if the game goes deep into the latter overs.
Spin has always been important in controlling a limited-overs game, and Eoin Morgan may well bring back Moeen Ali at the Ageas Bowl (or the Southampton Bowl, as the ICC have bafflingly decreed it must be named for this tournament) to partner Adil Rashid in the middle overs.
Moeen has good memories in Southampton, having taken his first five-wicket haul in Test cricket at the ground against India and taking 1-36 the last time the Windies rolled into Southampton in 2017: the last ODI of a five-match series in which Moeen was awarded man of the series.
Rashid also played back then, collecting figures of 1-42, meaning spin went for just 78 in 20 overs. To put that into context, Jake Ball, England’s opening bowler that day, went for 94 in 10. England like the Ageas Bowl too, having thrashed Friday’s opponents by nine wickets in that match chasing 289 – which England knocked off in a scarcely believable 38 overs. Guess who opened the batting that day and shared a 156-run opening stand? That’s right – Roy and Bairstow. It was admittedly against a completely different Windies bowling line-up, so there will be no hangover for Holder’s men.
But with Windies possessing the ability to remove a top-order in the blink of an eye, it is important Moeen is added back into the side to provide the host’s batting line-up with precious balance, and to squeeze the Windies’ big hitters, too.
England play the West Indies in Southampton, at 10:30am
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