There is no arena more demanding in cricket than a Test match. Unfortunately for both the West Indies and England, they have been found wanting more often than not of late in this format. But this series represents a chance to get back on the right track for both sides as a result. Who will take advantage? Read on for our full West Indies vs England 1st Test preview and prediction:
West Indies vs England 1st Test Preview and Prediction
It has been quite a while since the West Indies played any red-ball cricket. Their last Test series came just after the T20 World Cup away in Sri Lanka and there was little for the Caribbean to celebrate. Sri Lanka won both matches at a canter, with the West Indian batters largely unable to cope with the Sri Lankan spinners. Their highest score across the two-match series was 253 and they lost both matches by over 150 runs. That said, playing on home turf is a very different matter.
There was some confidence in the England side ahead of the Ashes, particularly amongst former-England players. But it was hard to see why and it quickly became clear just how badly misplaced that confidence was. The Australian attack simply had far too much for the frail England batting line-up, producing collapse after collapse across a miserable tour which ended in a 4-0 defeat. The bowlers did impress at times, but even so it was the Australian batters who won most of the battles.
Captain Kraigg Brathwaite will open the batting for the hosts. Jermaine Blackwood partnered him at the top against Sri Lanka, but it would be a surprise to see that experiment continued with. Instead, John Campbell’s fine form in domestic cricket may have earned him another crack at this level. Nkrumah Bonner will likely keep his place at number three, with Shamarh Brooks an option at number four. He has not played a Test match since the 2020 tour of New Zealand.
Expect Jermaine Blackwood to return to his usual position at number five, with all-rounder Kyle Mayers at six and keeper-batsman Joshua da Silva in at number seven. Jason Holder, who struck a superb double century last time England toured the Caribbean, will bat at eight, with Alzarri Joseph the next man in. Kemar Roach will lead the attack. Shannon Gabriel will be a big miss, with it left to Jayden Seales and Anderson Phillip to fill his shoes with the West Indies likely to opt for an all-pace attack.
The changes have been rung for England after their disastrous Ashes. Rory Burns and Haseeb Hameed, the incumbent openers when England arrives in Australia are gone, with Zak Crawley and Alex Lees their replacements. Lees, in line for a Test debut, made a gritty half-century in the warm-up. Joe Root will bat at three. That has not worked in the past for him and seems an odd choice, but it does give Dan Lawrence the chance to make the number four spot his own.
Ben Stokes has targeted a marked improvement after his own disappointing Ashes campaign, though he has always been rather a boom-or-bust player with the bat. Johnny Bairstow has been in fine form, adding to his SCG century with another in the warm-up match against the West Indies President’s XI. Ben Foakes will finally have a clear run as first-choice keeper. Chris Woakes will bat at eight and take the new ball. Craig Overton, Mark Wood and Jack Leach will round out the side.
There is ability with the bat in this West Indies team, but in an era dominated by such excellent bowling, there simply hasn’t been enough of it. Mayers, however, has made a very useful start to his Test career. His average of 35 with the bat is slightly inflated by the 210* he made on debut against Bangladesh, but he has added two 50s since then whilst also averaging 25 with the ball. His all-round skills might just prove vital to the West Indies’ chances in this match.
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Root obviously remains the key to this England batting line-up, such is his ability, but there will be a great deal of pressure to perform on the man who has taken his captain’s place at number four. There is no doubt that Lawrence has talent, his 11 first-class centuries point to that much, but he will likely need to perform in this series if England are to have success. If he can’t improve on his average of 27 over the course of this series, England’s search for a number four may have to start again.
This is a tough match to call. England looked effective with bat and ball against the West Indies President’s XI, but the full strength West Indies side will be a different matter and there is no escaping the reality that England have won just one series in the Caribbean in the last 50 years. The West Indies batting line-up may look frail, but they can score runs on home turf and, crucially, the men-in-maroon are usually superb with the ball. If that holds, they may have too much for this new-look England.
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