After a long wait of almost three months, owing to the coronavirus pandemic, international cricket is all set to resume, amid new rules and restrictions, with the three-match Test series between England and West Indies starting July 8 at the Ageas Bowl. West Indies are the defending champions of the contest having scripted an impressive 2-1 win at home in early 2019. Hosts England will hence be raring to reclaim the trophy with the full-strength squad they have picked, although they would be without the services of regular skipper Joe Root for the Southampton opener.
On paper, there is little to separate the two, despite West Indies’s struggle in the format since the turn of the century. And the most defining aspect of Windies’ recent surge has been their dominating pace attack under the guidance of skipper Jason Holder. The battle will hence be decided on how batters from either side take on the respective pace attack, especially the top three which has been struggling for both sides.
Since 2015, if there has been one team against whom West Indies have been particularly impressive against is England. Holder's men have won four and lost as many in the nine Tests they have played against England in this period. Besides they also are ahead in the overall head-to-head tie against the hosts with 57-49 win-loss tally in their 92-year-old rivalry.
However, West Indies have long struggled to thrive in English conditions, managing only one Test victory in their last three tours. In fact, the last time West Indies won a Test series in England was back in 1988, which was part of their five-series winning streak in the country. England have since managed to change the tide, winning all the last six contests at home.
The West Indies, in particular, haven't been good travellers, winning only five out of 37 Tests played outside the Caribbeans since the last decade. Their only notable domination has come against Bangladesh, winning two out of three tours during the period.
West Indies outside home since 2010...
The three-match Test series will be played at two venues - the opener in Southampton and the final two in Manchester and the hosts have been equally dominant at the two venues. While they have won twice and drew once in the three Tests they played at the Ageas Bowl so far, England have lost only twice at the Old Trafford Ground since the start of the century, winning 9 out of 14 Tests played at the venue. West Indies, on the other hand, are yet to play in Southampton, while and are yet to win a Test in Manchester since their innings victory back in 1988. They have since lost thrice and recorded one draw in four Tests in Manchester.
Pacers versus Pacers
In the last two years, West Indies pacers have been impressively dominant with an average of 21.78 and strike rate of 42.9, only marginally behind top-placed India. However, they haven't been quite penetrative - 11.8 wickets per Test - compared to their counterparts from India, South Africa, New Zealand and Australia, but their numbers are exactly similar to that of the English attack. However, the latter have a combined average of 26.78 and a strike rate of 54.6 in the last two years.
Pace attack of all Test-playing nations since 2018...
At the helm of the Windies' surge as a pace-dominating nation stands their skipper, who has the best Test average among seamers since 2018 (at least 10 Tests) with a figure of 14.2 and also stand third in the ICC Test Rankings. England's best, James Anderson, who is ranked eighth as per the ICC, averages 22.46. Besides, Holder, West Indies also have Kemar Roach, who averages 19.82 in 12 Tests during the period with 46 wickets and Shanon Gabriel, 13 Tests at 24.60 with 50 wickets. Roach had played a vital role in Windies's 2-1 win against England in 2019, taking 18 wickets at 13.89. The pace unit also comprises Alzarri Joseph, three Tests at 23.80 with 10 wickets, who will be completing the quartet in the lineup, alongside youngster Chemar Holder and left-arm option Raymon Reiffer.
For England, Anderson will be the key with his average of 18.42 at home in eight Tests since 2018 taking 33 wickets. Moreover, at home, England pacers have picked 14.38 wickets per Test.
Where the battle will be decided?
While both sides have an equally dominating pace attack, they both have an equally vulnerable top-order lineup. England's top three averages only 29.86 since 2018, standing eighth among all Test-playing nations, while West Indies's top three averages 21.61 during the period, bettering only Ireland.
Batting averages of top three of all Test-playing nations since 2018...
West Indies's top-order comprises openers Kraigg Brathwaite and John Campbell and Shai Hope at No.3. The Bajan pair of Brathwaite and Hope will bring in considerable experience having played 59 and 31 Tests respectively and had played a crucial role in the team's Leeds victory in 2017. Campbell, however, has played only six Tests so far, but had combined to stitch four fifty-plus stands with Brathwaite in the 2019 England series.
For England, the top three will combine Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, and one between Zak Crawley and Joe Denly, and the four have a combined experience of 39 Tests, averaging 32.64.
Who will emerge as the best all-rounder?
World cricket has forever been talking about Ben Stokes as the best all-rounder in Tests, but since 2018, numbers have backed the Windies skipper to take the top spot. No wonder he is No.1 ranked Test all-rounder by ICC.
|Player||Mat||Runs||Bat Av||100s||Wkts||Bowl Av||5-fers||Ave Diff|
|JO Holder (WI)||11||680||42.5||1||53||14.22||5||28.27|
|RA Jadeja (INDIA)||14||693||53.3||1||48||27.68||0||25.62|
|Shakib Al Hasan (BDESH)||5||268||29.77||0||22||20.5||1||9.27|
|BA Stokes (ENG)||24||1627||37.83||3||52||30.38||0||7.45|
- Holder has amassed 1898 runs in his Test career and requires 102 runs more to become the third West Indies player with 2000 runs and 100 wickets in Tests.
- Roach, with 193 Test wickets, needs seven more scalps to become the ninth Windies bowler to reach the milestone of 200 wickets.
- Anderson needs five more wickets to become the leading wicket-taker in the rivalry contest, surpassing Fred Trueman's tally of 86 wickets.