England will be aim to ace their final audition before their Ashes defence at the end of the year as they face off against the West Indies.
The Three Lions have just three Test matches remaining before they take on Australia Down Under, and will be determined to take momentum into the series.
Joe Root enjoyed the perfect start as captain of his country. England brushed South Africa aside to retain the Basil D’Oliveira trophy, winning the series 3-1.
The Yorkshireman top scored in the series for the Three Lions, notching 461 runs, including a massive century in the first Test at Lord’s.
Due to the struggles of England’s batting line-up his form was a vital aspect of the victory, and the 26-year-old will need to maintain his brilliance throughout the rest of the summer.
Keaton Jennings paid the price for his failures against the Proteas, with former Durham team-mate Mark Stoneman replacing him as opener alongside Alastair Cook.
Chris Woakes has returned to the fold after missing time due to injury, while Hampshire leg-spinner Mason Crane has earned his first call-up.
The West Indies are without several senior players, including Chris Gayle, Darren Bravo, Darren Sammy and Marlon Samuels. Jason Holder will lead the side in a battle against the odds, beginning with the first day/night Test match to be held in England at Edgbaston.
We’ll now breakdown which players could shine over the course of the series and determined who will emerge the victor.
The Three Lions are crying out for longevity at the top of the innings alongside Cook. Stoneman becomes the veteran’s 12th opening partner since the retirement of Andrew Strauss in 2012. The 30-year-old has been knocking on the door for a while and now has the opportunity to cement a place in the England side ahead of the Ashes.
Stoneman was a consistent run scorer for Durham for the past five seasons, including their County Championship win in 2013. He notched over 1,000 first-class runs last term, despite playing his cricket on one of the most bowler-friendly surfaces in the country. Durham’s relegation for financial issues prompted a move to Surrey in the off-season, but it has not slowed him down.
Only Kumar Sangakkara has scored more first-class runs than the 30-year-old this season. He has an average of 57.23, scoring three centuries in the process. The question is whether he will be able to transfer his game to the Test arena where so many others have failed before him, including his former opener partner at Durham.
Stoneman faces a slightly easier ride than his predecessors against a mediocre West Indies’ attack and that could help him secure a place on the plane to Australia. His odds of +450 to top score in the series are tempting, but it is hard to look beyond anyone other than Root the way.
Root has scored a half-century in his last 10 Test matches on the bounce, equalling John Edrich’s England record. Another at Edgbaston will see him break etch his play in history and he will only continue from there. With odds of +220 with Bet365, he’s the smart bet, although Stoneman provides better value.
Without the majority of their senior players the West Indies face a battle to compete against England’s quality attack. Holder’s men succumbed to defeat on home soil against Pakistan as they were put under pressure by good bowling, resulting in their 2-1 loss.
Life will not get easier against England, although one batsman could rise to the challenge. Roston Chase has enjoyed an impressive start to his international career. The 25-year-old has scored three centuries and three fifties in his 18 innings, averaging 48.53 in 10 Test matches.
Batting in the middle he notched his runs against his highest Test score of 137 not out against India in Kingston, while be scored two hundreds against Pakistan. Conditions will be a lot tougher in England, especially in the opening match of the series against Edgbaston.
James Anderson and Toby Roland-Jones were operating at the peak of their powers against South Africa. Therefore Chase will have to be at his best from the off to continue the fine start to his career. Backing him at odds of +550 with William Hill could be a solid bet to enhance his reputation.
Kieran Powell could also be an option having scored a century and 92 against Derbyshire in the warm-up match. The 27-year-old has more experience than Chase, but will be exposed at the top of the order against lateral movement.
Anderson was at his best against the Proteas, claiming 20 wickets in the four matches at an average of 14.10. The 35-year-old looked keen to dispel any notion that he is past his best, putting the tourists under pressure every time their entered the crease. The Lancastrian is now only 13 wickets away from 500, and is in closing distance of Courtney Walsh next on the all-time record list.
A strong series against the West Indies could see him surpass the 500-wicket mark, becoming only the third seam bowler in the history of the game to achieve the feat. He took seven wickets against South Africa to help his side secure the series at Old Trafford – bowling mainly from the end of the ground that was named after him.
Anderson will be keen to sign off the summer by leading the wicket column again, although his time on the field could be limited ahead of Ashes, especially if England are dominant.
As a result, Roland-Jones could be a solid option to take to be the Three Lions’ leading bowler. Moeen Ali was outstanding against the Proteas taking 25 wickets, but given that the day/night Test matches kicks off the series – Roland-Jones could get a headstart in favourable conditions.
He was extremely impressive during the series with South Africa and will have the chance to exploit a weakened West Indies’ batting line-up to ensure that he’s on the plane to Australia. Therefore back the 29-year-old at odds of +400 to lead the wicket column.
England should have few problems beating the West Indies in the series. The tourists are weakened without the presence of their senior players and should not provide the same level of resistance as South Africa, even though the Three Lions overcame that with ease.
England To Beat The West Indies
England To Beat The West Indies 3-0
Mark Stoneman To Be England’s Top Batsman
Roston Chase To Be West Indies’ Best Batsman
Toby Roland-Jones To Be England’s Top Bowler
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