West Indies vs England Preview: Prepare for entertainment in Barbados
Photo credit: Getty Images / Shaun Botterill

West Indies vs England Preview: Prepare for entertainment in Barbados

The first Test begins on Wednesday at the Kensington Oval with England heavy favourites. 

chris-lincoln
Chris Lincoln

For all of the noise, festivities and entertainment present in the Caribbean, England’s tours of the West Indies have not been filled with many celebrations in the last five decades.

The tourists have won just a solitary series during that period, all of 15 years ago when Steve Harmison rocked the Windies with spells of fierce and fiery bowling.

Yet the latest instalment in a rich history of entertainment between these two Test nations poses the question of how many will England win by, not just can they be successful.

Selection headaches for the visitors

Joe Root begins the first of the three-match series tomorrow with a selection dilemma. In Jonny Bairstow, Jos Buttler and Ben Foakes, the England captain has three wicketkeeper-batsmen in great form. Yet the chances are that one will have to be left out and rumours from the Caribbean suggest it will be the latter, despite being a revelation when he replaced the injured Bairstow against Sri Lanka.

The Kensington Oval is somewhat of a mystery and not just because it has a swimming pool on the outskirts of the boundary.

Nobody quite knows how this pitch will play. Uneven and patchy, it does appear to have the potential to support swing but could also help (or hinder) spin bowlers. Root must decide whether to play one or two spinners and choose between Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Jack Leach - all tough to drop on recent form.

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A new generation looking to impress 

The West Indies are not the force they once were, dwindling toward the bottom of the Test rankings. Many of their players have opted to focus on the glitz and glamour of the shorter format of the game where bigger bucks can be made in lucrative competitions such as the Indian Premier League and Australian Big Bash.

Their prized asset, Chris Gayle, has a long-standing feud with the West Indies cricket authorities but Darren Bravo returns after resolving his argument following a long spell in the wilderness since November 2016.

In contrast when it comes to experience, the hosts also have two debutants in their squad, Shamarh Brooks and John Campbell.

The Windies are historically known for lightning quick bowlers who frightened the life out of their opponents. This generation aren’t quite held in the same regard but they certainly have plenty of pace. Tried and tested campaigners Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel will be supported by youngsters Oshane Thomas and Alzarri Joseph - raw but rapid.

What to expect 

This tour gives England a real opportunity to build some scores at the top of the order. If Keaton Jennings and Rory Burns can find some consistent form, it will be hard to argue against this England side being one of the best in recent history. Perfect timing for an Ashes summer.

But don’t write off the West Indies. A host of young players will be looking to make a name for themselves and the Caribbean is a spirited array of islands.

There will be entertainment, guaranteed on and off the pitch, and it begins with an unpredictable wicket in front of a vocal crowd at one of the most famous Test cricket grounds on the planet. 

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