England’s 2019 Tests series against West Indies begins on Wednesday, Jan 23 at the Kensington Oval in Barbados and moves on to Tests in Antigua and St Lucia. Sadly, the days of England visiting the traditional cricketing strongholds of Jamaica, Trinidad and Guyana are long gone – they have not played a Test at Kingston or Port of Spain on the past two tours and haven’t played one in Georgetown (or the new ground in Providence) since 1998.
Despite their mastery at home over West Indies since 2000’s tide-turner, England’s record over the past 50 years from nine series played in the Caribbean is one win, two draws and six defeats. The expectation is that the gulf in class between the two sides, England ranked No3 in Tests, West Indies No8, is so great that the touring side should comfortably win.
But West Indies have a formidable pace attack, some talented if inconsistent batsmen and despite perceptions of their fragility, they have won four and drawn two of their last 10 home series and won Tests in two of the four they lost. These are the men who will try to regain the Wisden Trophy for the first time since 2009.
Tests 53; Hundreds 8; Avg 35.22; Avg v Eng 39.08
Wickets 17; 5WI 1; Avg 56.70; Avg v Eng n/a
Made his Test debut at 18 and, though only 26, is the most experienced batsmen in the squad. The gritty opener has a wide range of strokes and is particularly strong through midwicket and extra-cover with forceful pushes and flicks. He is adept at working short balls behind point but struggled appallingly in four autumn and midwinter Tests in India and Bangladesh, making 48 from eight innings. He also lost all three matches as stand-in captain on tour.
If Antigua and St Lucia are as spin-friendly as expected, he may toil against England’s Moeen Ali, Adil Rashid and Jack Leach. Patience is his virtue and he will try to drop anchor and let the top order bat around him. Can sometimes get stuck in defensive mode and needs a partner with a more vibrant strike-rate to switch him from a match-saver to a match-winner.
The 25-year-old, aggressive, left-handed Jamaican opener is another dasher in the Chris Gayle mould who also bowls off-spin. Like most players of his ilk, he relies on a superb eye and fast hands to compensate for a lack of foot movement and sound defensive technique. If he is to conquer a vulnerability to nicking off when right-arm seamers angle the ball across him, he will need better judgment to stop him chasing the ball, being certain where his off-stump is and at least getting his head in line when he drives.