It’s been an exhaustive tour of Windies to England so far. The visitors have gained a lot more than the hosts. Yes, the home side was expected to win the Test series but who would have thought Windies would manage to win one of the Tests. The T20I was expected to be a close contest but the World Champions of the shortest format proved to be too good.
But wait! There’s more to it. The Caribbean side is yet to take a shot at their biggest aim of the tour. The Jason Holder-led side is in danger of falling short of a direct qualification for the 2019 ODI World Cup.
Windies are currently placed at the 9th spot in the ICC Rankings for ODI cricket. The top 8 sides in the rankings would earn a direct qualification for the prestigious tournament. The scenario for the visitors is quite simple, they need to win by a margin of 4-1 or more to move to the 8th spot by pushing Sri Lanka down to qualify.
But it’s not as simple as it may sound. Despite all the heroics that the team has shown, defeating England in their own backyard by such a huge margin is no joke. Eoin Morgan and his men have won 6 of their last 7 bilateral ODI series which include a 3-0 win over Windies in the Caribbean earlier this year. On the other hand, the Caribbean side hasn’t won a single bilateral ODI series since 2014.
Since their forgettable exit from the first round of 2015 ODI World Cup, the English side is altogether a different unit. They have been a formidable team that has won more often than losing. Especially at home, they are a tough nut to crack and going by the recent ODI form of Windies, it looks highly improbable that they would win the series let alone the margin required for the World Cup qualification.
The biggest news though is the return of Chris Gayle to the ODI team. He will be back in action after the last time he made an appearance in 2015. Regardless of the format, all eyes remain on him if he is in or around the park. The left-hander found some good from the T20I match and might be the inspiration that the team needs for the revival in the shorter format of the game.
The skipper Eoin Morgan has mentioned that Jonny Bairstow would open the innings that would mean that Jason Roy will have to wait for his chances. Alex Hales showed some good form in the T20I and is an important member of the side. With Joe Root, Morgan, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and Moeen Ali; the batting order is daunting and would make life difficult for the visitors.
Chris Woakes, Tom Curran, David Willey, Jake Ball and Liam Plunkett are all quality pacers and it’ll be a tough call leaving out 2 of them. The leg-spinner Adil Rashid has done wonders for the side with his bowling in the middle overs and going by the struggle of Windies’ batsmen against wrist spin, he is going to be the key.
Chris Gayle and Evin Lewis, just like the T20I, will be a threat once more. With their sheer power, if they stay on the crease for a substantial amount, they would run away with the game. Rest of the batting unit including Marlon Samuels, Kyle Hope, Shai Hope is talented but whether they’ll deliver the goods, remains to be seen.
When it comes to bowling, there is not one name that poses threat in the opposition camp. Jerome Taylor, Miguel Cummins, Kesrick Williams, Alzarri Joseph are all decent bowlers but none of them have bowled a decisive spell of late in ODIs. The spin department has Devendra Bishoo and Ashley Nurse who are bound to have a tough time on surfaces that don’t offer a lot of turn.
England: Jason Roy, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan(c), Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler(w), Ben Stokes, Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, Tom Curran, David Willey, Jake Ball, Liam Plunkett
Windies: Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Kyle Hope, Marlon Samuels, Shai Hope(w), Jason Mohammed, Sunil Ambris, Jason Holder(c), Rovman Powell, Ashley Nurse, Devendra Bishoo, Alzarri Joseph, Kesrick Williams, Miguel Cummins, Jerome Taylor