Our prediction is England to win the Match!
After a topsy-turvy and at times controversial Test series between these two sides ended with a 2-1 win to the West Indies, they now lock horns in the first of five One-Day Internationals between now and the start of March. With the World Cup just a matter of months away, this represents one of the last opportunities for finetuning and getting preparations right in the 50-over format.
These two sides have met 96 times in ODIs and England hold the edge with 49 wins to 42. However, for a long while the West Indies had the upper hand but in recent times, as they have struggled with on and off-field issues, they have fallen behind. England have won the last nine completed ODIs they have played, including all seven that were played in 2017.
The last time they toured the Caribbean, however, the West Indies won the opening match only to then slip to five straight defeats.
The West Indies at least come into this match on the back of winning the Test series which should give them a bit of a boost. However, they have had to make several changes to their squad after Evin Lewis, Rovman Powell and Keemo Paul went down injured. They will also be without Shannon Gabriel as he serves a four-match ban, meaning John Campbell, Carlos Brathwaite and Sheldon Cottrell get their chance. Nicolas Pooran could make his ODI debut.
Perhaps the biggest boost of all is the return to ODI action for Chris Gayle, for whom this will be his last series at home as he prepares to bow out from the format after the World Cup. He hasn’t played an ODI since July but his experience – not to mention recent good form in the BPL – will help the West Indies. After all, they did not win a bilateral series in 2018, ending the year going down to Bangladesh so their recent form is far from inspiring. They won eight from 18 last year with one tie against India.
Chris Gayle, Shai Hope (wk), Darren Bravo, Shimron Hetmyer, Nicolas Pooran, Carlos Brathwaite, Jason Holder (c), Ashley Nurse, Kemar Roach, Devendra Bishoo, Sheldon Cottrell.
England might have underwhelmed in the Test series but whereas in five-day cricket they seem at times not to have the first clue about which batsmen should bat where, their ODI side is much more settled. Out of the 24 matches they played last year, they won all but seven of them, with series wins over Australia (home and away), New Zealand, India and Sri Lanka to show for their efforts.
They have no serious worries about their squad going into the match and with Eoin Morgan leading the side it gives Joe Root a rest from captaincy. The likes of Tom Curran, Liam Plunkett and David Willey have been in Big Bash action recently so carry some form into the series. Root and Jason Roy both struck centuries as England thrashed the University of West Indies Vice Chancellor’s XI in a warm-up. Perhaps their only selection dilemma is whether Alex Hales or Jonny Bairstow opens alongside Roy.
Alex Hales, Jason Roy, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Jos Buttler (wk), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Tom Curran, Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett.
The weather is likely to be warm with the odd shower throughout the week in Barbados leading to little chance of a rain interruption. The pitch was dry for the Test match here last month, where Roston Chase took eight wickets to bowl the West Indies to victory. A quick and bouncy pitch, it generally offers a decent contest between bat and ball.
The Kensington Oval has hosted cricket since 1882 and internationals since 1930. It was rebuilt for the 2007 World Cup when it hosted the final. It has now played host to 34 completed One-Day Internationals, with the side batting first winning 16 of those and the side batting second winning 16. The average score batting first is 235 and England holds the ground record of 328 all out, achieved two years ago.
The last three matches at the venue have seen the side batting first win – and win by at least 58 runs so both captains might fancy setting a target. However, in two of those matches, the side winning the toss opted to field first. With this being the opening match of the series and the first of two games at the venue, the skippers might feel it prudent to invite their opponents to gauge the pitch first and try to set a target.
The Kensington Oval is one of the great cricketing venues in world cricket but it has not been a happy hunting ground in recent times for the West Indies. Few venues, if any, have, as they struggle in the build-up to the World Cup. Much rests on the shoulders of Gayle, Jason Holder and Kemar Roach. However, this is an England team in fine form and one which will be targeting nothing less than a clean sweep in this series. The battle between Gayle and England’s bowlers promises to be one to watch, but as an all-round package, the visitors should have the edge.
Our prediction is England to win the Match!
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