Two months into British summertime and finally there’s a game of cricket to bet on! England welcome the West Indies to the Ageas Bowl in Hampshire on Wednesday 8 July for the first in a three-test series throughout the month. The Lions will be led for the first time by Ben Stokes, who will take over captaincy duties from Joe Root, while he is attending the birth of his second child. How will that impact upon England’s performance?
The Windies arrive on English soil on the back of a hapless home series against India. They were comprehensively beaten in those two tests in August 2019, and this is very much a team in a transitional phase right now. So have they got the quality to really trouble England in this first test?
Practice makes perfect?
Normally when betting it makes sense to take a look at the current form of the teams and players before making your selections. But in this case, bettors have very little to go on other than a couple of practice matches.
England played an intra-squad friendly match between July 1-3 at Hampshire, and it was good to see Jimmy Anderson pick up a couple of wickets in an 18-over spell. He looked fit and sharp, and that is bad news for the Windies’ top order. Joe Denly, Zak Crawley and Ben Stokes scored some confidence-boosting runs too.
The West Indies have had a couple of internal practice matches of their own, and Kraigg Brathwaite has been the standout performer with bat in hand. There was also runs for the talented Shai Hope, although the bad news is that captain Jason Holder is yet to bowl as he battles an ankle injury. Rated as the best all-rounder in test cricket, if Holder can’t bowl in the first test it will certainly aid England’s cause.
Level playing field
If this game had taken place a few weeks ago, the West Indies might have been fancied to cause an upset with the hot sun beating on the south coast of England. That would have created more bounce in the pitch, and those conditions swing the balance toward the Caribbeans. But the forecast has changed and there could be plenty of rain around prior to the first ball being bowled – assisting England’s bowlers and batsmen.
The English are unbeaten in three test matches at the Ageas Bowl, beating India by 60 runs in their last game there in 2018, and the last time they hosted the Windies in the longer format of the game on home soil a year earlier they were 2-1 victors.
But the West Indies would have revenge of their own with a 2-1 series win in 2019, so are these two teams closer in quality than the betting odds suggest? England, as the 27/100 favourites, have to be respected in their preferred conditions, but at a price of 7/1 – and knowing Root, owner of more than 7,000 test runs, won’t be involved – there will be no shortage of takers in backing the Windies to catch England cold. Either way, this is shaping up to be a fantastic way to start international cricket in 2020.
Whatever you bet on, enjoy the England vs West Indies first test and don’t forget that our prices are subject to fluctuation. Please check Royal Panda sports betting for the most up-to-date odds.