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When the West Indies host England in the Caribbean for a three-match one-day series, Ben Stokes will come face to face with Carlos Brathwaite for the first time on a cricket pitch since the Barbadian bludgeoned the Durham all-rounder to all parts of Eden Gardens in last year’s World Twenty20 Final. The stakes won’t be so high and the format is obviously different, but when play starts in Antigua you can bet the locals will waste no time reminding the Englishman of his travails from 11 months ago.
The catcalls from the home support are almost guaranteed, but it’s the tourists who the layers will be fearing, chalking up Eoin Morgan’s side as series favourites, with Grosvenor Sport going just 1/4 about England coming out on top and the West Indies quoted at 3/1.
It’s easy to see why the market makers are trying to get the hosts in the book. Jason Holder’s team looks weak and inexperienced, with so many previously key performers pursuing their careers elsewhere. The decision of the WICB to stick to their club or country rule appears to be to the detriment of the hosts. Missing are the likes of Dwayne and Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels and Ravi Rampaul, amongst others, and this looks like a transitional period for the West Indies, who might be T20 world champions but are drastically out of sorts in the 50-over form of the game. Their current run of just seven wins in their last 31 ODIs tells its own sorry tale, a sequence that includes defeats against Zimbabwe and Ireland.
With Sunil Narine and Sulieman Benn omitted from the squad, it’s difficult to know who is going to really trouble a powerful English batting line-up, with the sporadically used (at least in terms of one-dayers) Shannon Gabriel topping the market for top series West Indies bowler at 13/4. A better option could be to back Holder at 7/2.
England looked tired at the end of their odyssey through the sub-continent earlier this year, but four weeks off should have them fresh and refocused. The tourists have plenty of classy performers throughout their top order and there’s a huge incentive for those that have travelled to make an impact on the tour given the Champions Trophy is just a few months away. The final is in London this year and remember; it’s the only major limited-over trophy England haven’t won (they’re quoted at 13/4 joint favourites, along with Australia, to end their drought).
Joe Root and Jason Roy are joint favourites at 5/2 to top the series scoring charts for England. However, with Morgan already amongst the runs in the warm up matches, it might just be that the skipper is the man to back at 9/2.
England won the last series between the pair in the Caribbean 2-1 (a 7/5 shot this time around), but, as the West Indies have lost nine of their last ten ODIs against the Three Lions, a 3-0 whitewash for the tourists at 5/4 is preferred as a correct score punt.
West Indies v England – First One Day International (Antigua, 3rd March 2017, 13:30)
It’s been eight years since the West Indies were sent off favourites to beat England in a one day international, and they’ll have to wait a little while longer to persuade the bookmakers that they are worthy of being priced as jollies, with Eoin Morgan’s men 1/3 to win the opener of their three-match series in Antigua. The hosts are 23/10 to find some much needed 50-over form, but they look short on quality and confidence and shouldn’t derail an England side well equipped to beat a team listed as ninth in the ICC ODI rankings.
The West Indies have a shocking record at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, winning only two of nine one-dayers since it opened ahead of the 2007 World Cup. It’s generally known as a good batting pitch, which should help England – and don’t forget they set a target of 304 the last time they played there in 2014. Then, Joe Root scored 107 runs from 122 balls – his maiden ODI century. This time around the recently appointed Test captain is 3/1 to be top scorer for England, an even more tempting 9/2 to be top match scorer and a not-out-of-the-question 7/1 to be man of the match.
Ben Stokes, incidentally, is an 11/1 shot to win the MOM award and remind the West Indies public of his quality, although his T20 Final demons aren’t the only ones he’ll be looking exorcise in Antigua. On his last trip here, he fractured his hand by smashing it into a locker in the dressing room in frustration after a first ball dismissal.
This time, the only aggression from the England players should be confined to the pitch, with the Three Lions taken to score more sixes (9/10) and fours (3/5) than the West Indies. It could also pay to back the tourists opening partnership to register over 31.5 runs at 22/25 – something they’ve achieved in seven of their last 11 ODIs, with the first wicket failing at an average of 39.3.