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With history against them, red-hot England are set to face of West Indies in a three-match test series with the first match to be played at Kensington Oval in Bridgetown on 23rd January. The disparity between the two sides can be seen by their standings in the ICC Test ranking. West Indies' struggle in the recent times is well known and they sit at eighth position in ICC test rankings. On the other hand, England are in fantastic form and have won eight and lost one in their last nine matches. They occupy the third spot in the ICC test rankings. However, England would have to be wary of conditions at the Caribbean Islands - which are never straightforward to adjust. England have won only once in West Indies in the last fifty years and that was way back in 2004 in which the three-lions won the four-match 3-0 under the leadership of Michael Vaughan. Not long ago, West Indies surprised England at Headingley where Shai Hope helped the tourists pull-off an unanticipated victory. It's never been easy to win in uncertain conditions of West Indies and as much out of form the hosts have been, they'll be tough to beat, even for the in-form England. The first match will be a big test and is certainly not got to be easy for any of the two sides.
West Indies are coming into the series with the burden of four consecutive defeats on their shoulders - a streak which they certainly didn't want. However, all their defeats were in Asian conditions, against India and Bangladesh, and they are expected to fare a lot better in home conditions.
The West Indies team is in a revival phase and we can expect plenty of changes in their playing eleven. Alongside Kraigg Brathwaite, who is now an established name in West Indies' lineup, John Cambell is almost certain to open the innings for the Caribbean team. However, it will be interesting to see how he tackles the duo of Stuart Broad and James Anderson, considering his inexperience of playing regularly against world-class bowlers.
The most notable change the Windies are going to see is the homecoming of younger Bravo brother, Darren Bravo, who returns to the team after a gap of more than two years. He has a decent test record and played some valuable innings in different leagues across the globe which kept him in touch with the batting. After missing the Bangladesh's tour due to injury, Jason Holder has also been recalled and will lead the side. He's been one of the most valuable players for the Windies in recent times, both with the bat and the ball.
Although they're strengthened by the return of a couple of their star players, the recent record is something they'll have to battle against. They've won just two out of their last fifteen test series - one of which was back in July last year against Bangladesh. They, however, will draw confidence from the surprise win they had over England at Headingley. The Windies are going through the tough times, but they've known to fight hard and things aren't going to be easy for the tourists this time as well.
Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Darren Bravo, Shai Hope, Shimron Hetmyer, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Jason Holder, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph.
After a hard-fought series win against India at home, the three-lions defied history by winning an away test series 3-0 against Sri Lanka. They have a win streak of five matches which they'll be looking to extend in the upcoming series.
Although the Englishmen have been extremely successful in recent times, the disappointments of their last two Caribbean campaigns will be haunting them. Also, they haven't done well here historically having won just one series in the last fifty years.
Keaton Jennings redeemed himself after a disastrous home series against India and he is likely to open the innings with Rory Burns. Burns is yet to confirm his berth in the test side and will be looking to get some match-time behind him with Ashes coming up later this year. With Jonny Bairstow, Joe Root, and Jos Buttler to follow, their batting lineup keeps getting stronger as we move down the order.
It's the availability of all-rounders that makes England such a tough side to beat. They bat all the way till number ten which happened to be the difference between India and England in the series the series played between the two sides last year. Sam Curran played a vital role - more with the bat than the ball, and same will be expected of him this time around as well.
In the seaming conditions of Barbados, James Anderson and Stuart Broad will be tough to handle - who are just 2 wickets away from the 1000 test wickets between them. England are likely to go in with just one spinner, that is, Moeen Ali, considering the surface which isn't likely to have much in it for the spinners. Ben Stokes, Sam Curran, and Moeen Ali are one of the better trios of support bowlers a team could have alongside James Anderson and Stuart Broad. With a deep batting lineup and five genuine bowlers, England looks a formidable team which will have a good chance to rewrite the history of winning the test series after fifteen long years.
KK Jennings, Rory Burns, Jonny Bairstow, JE Root, BA Stokes, Jos Buttler, Moeen Ali, Ben Foakes, Sam Curran, AU Rashid, James Anderson.
Overcast conditions and a surface helpful for seam bowling have all the ingredients of a tough time for the batsmen. The team winning the toss will like to take the advantage of moisture in the surface and the weather by opting to bowl first at Barbados.
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The surface at Kensington Oval is known to support fast bowlers and the expected overcast conditions are only going to magnify that assistance. The temperature is likely to over in the early twenties with sky remaining overcast for the first three days of the test. Spinners aren't likely to make much of an impact on this surface and it will be surprising to see if match last more than four days unless of course due to rain interruptions. Anything oval 350 will be a good first innings total on this surface
Clearly, there is a lot of disparity between the two sides. It's not just the ICC rankings that separate them, but also the stability of the team and recent results. The only silver lining in an otherwise dismal record for the Windies is their terrific records while playing at home and their recent surprise win over England away from home. England, however, have been brilliant in recent times - both playing away and at home. Barring the opening pair, they have everything sorted out and are a better-balanced side. West Indies have always been a competitive side despite and while they're still likely to be tough opponents, England have been on a rampage in the recent times. Considering the recent results and the balance of the two sides, England are firm favorites to come on top in the opening encounter.
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