West Indies vs. England 1st Test Odds: England to start the long road back with victory in Antigua
England are back in the Caribbean following their January limited overs stint and this time it's the test team who are contesting a three match test series, where they will play for the newly inaugurated Richards-Botham Trophy. The first test starts on Tuesday 8th March at 2pm UK time and will be broadcast live on BT Sport. We have enlisted our cricket specialist @OddsTerrier to preview this one and pick out a few tips for you to cast your eye over.
West Indies vs. England 1st Test Tips
We're back cricket fans! It seems like no time at all since England were last in the West Indies, where they suffered a narrow 3-2 series loss in their best of five T20 contest. Since then, we've had numerous big headlines emanating from within the England camp. Firstly we had the sackings of most of the senior figures in the test set-up, following their disastrous tour down under, including Head Coach Chris Silverwood, Team Director Ashley Giles and Batting Coach Graeme Thorpe. In their place, have been installed interim replacements in the form of new Head Coach Paul Collingwood and Director Andrew Strauss.
There are big rumours that former Australian Head Coach Justin Langer will take the role on a permanent basis. One man who has survived the cull is England Captain Joe Root, who is under huge pressure to lead the side to a test series win here. However, that could turn out to be a more difficult task than many imagine. England have only won once in the Caribbean in 54 years, back in 2003/04.
We've also had the shock double-omission of record breaking test opening pair Jimmy Anderson and Stuart Broad for this series. A move that many think may signal the end of their illustrious test careers. England are now relying on a less experienced pace attack of Craig Overton, Ollie Robinson, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and Saqib Mahmood.
The final and most tragic headline from the cricket world was the sad and shock passing of GOAT leg-spinner Shane Warne at the young age of 52. The whole cricketing world mourns his loss and both sides are sure to honour his legacy in this series.
England's 12 man squad:
Joe Root (captain), Jonny Bairstow, Zak Crawley, Ben Foakes (wicketkeeper), Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Alex Lees, Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Ben Stokes, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
West Indies 13 man squad:
Kraigg Brathwaite (captain), Jermaine Blackwood (vice-captain), Nkrumah Bonner, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Joshua Da Silva (wicketkeeper), Jason Holder, Alzarri Joseph, Kyle Mayers, Veerasammy Permaul, Anderson Phillip, Kemar Roach, Jayden Seales
Ok, on with the betting...
My first pick is for England to start to erase some of the ignominy of the Ashes debacle with a win here. The main problem in the Australian tour was the batting but it looks in rude health here on more favourable wickets. England scored over 600 runs for the loss of just 10 wickets in their warm up game against a West Indies President's XI, last week and will be hoping to carry on in the same vein in Antigua. Obviously they will be up against better quality bowling but the likes of Jonny Bairstow (106*), Dan Lawrence (83 & 48) , Alex Lees (65), Zak Crawley (62) and Joe Root (54) all shone with the bat and look way more comfortable on these flat Caribbean wickets.
The one issue they may have is ironically with the ball - their strong point down under - as Ollie Robinson is ruled out with a back spasm and Mark Wood is a doubt. I think given that , they will opt to leave out spinner Jack leach for an all out pace attack featuring our next selection.
Saqib Mahmood has been chomping at the bit for a couple of years now to get a shot in the test team. This could be his opportunity and I think it's one he will relish. The 25-year-old Lancastrian is bowling better than ever and took 28 wickets for the red rose county last year at an average of 23.89. Mahmood is quick and can move the ball either way. His one day experience has also given him some added variety with the ball which may come in handy on these flat batting tracks.
I like him at 10/3 to be England's top bowler in the first innings.
My last pick is the aforementioned Zak Crawley. He was one of the few bright sparks with the bat in Australia. The 24-year-old was brought in midway through the series and looked in good nick, top scoring with 77 in Sydney. The 97 runs he scored in the warm up game in Coolidge will have further boosted his confidence and maybe finally we'll start to see an accumulation of runs like we expected when he smashed 267 in quick time against Pakistan back in 2020. I've got a feeling that this is the tour that will cement his position in the England top order.
William Hill have boosted 'creepy' from 4/1 to 5/1 for him to top score for England in the first innings.
Please enjoy the cricket and remember to gamble responsibly.