England vs West Indies | 19 June | The Kennington Oval, London | 12:45
The West Indian tour capitulation continued on Saturday, as they went down to the English by 114 runs, figured by the Duckworth/Lewis method. With this only being a three-match series, it is now or never for the West Indies if they wish to take the series down to the wire. However, it looks the case that the English are just too mentally strong for a West Indian team that seems to slump from bad to worse every next time I watch them. Chris Gayle's foot injury has put him in doubt for the remainder of the series, and with that probably goes any chance of a big West Indian hundred to put the English under pressure. All this and more, in the second ODI preview.
Ian Bells' stylish century at the top of the order not only cemented his place as the replacement England opener after Kevin Pietersen's untimely retirement, but was also the marked difference between the two sides on Saturday. Bell's fluent hundred came off only 95 balls, and his joint top-score of 126, off 117. It actually skews the tempered aggression with which Bell played, showing once again how there is no substitute for classy cricket strokes. Trott provided the back-up in a good partnership, and the rest was left for the lower-middle order with Morgan, Kieswetter, Bresnan and Broad all chipping in. In reality the English should've passed 300, but their highest score of 288 at the Rose Bowl would prove to be more than enough.
Dwayne Smith got the West Indies off to a fiery start, his 56 coming off only 44 balls. He had Gayle's job at the top of the order, and although Smith would've felt like he played his role, Bell showed how important it is to turn a good start into a big score. After Darren Bravo was injured in the field, the West Indies had to shuffle their order, but nevertheless, the house of cards came tumbling down as they lost their final 9 wickets for 77 runs on either side of the rain delay. Bresnan was the chief destroyer for England, but all the bowlers cashed in with wickets to round up a good team effort.
West Indies 12/10
Bell's century at the top of the order makes it five tons in a row for English opening batsmen. Cook and Pietersen racked up centuries against Pakistan as they white-washed them earlier in the year, and Bell now adds to this with his fantastic innings on Saturday. It was interesting to see how much Kevin Pietersen would be missed in the English ODI side, and the answer was, not at all. But as has been reiterated a thousand times, the English are in for much sterner tests in the near future. The batting card made for pleasant reading and for the most part, everyone played their role. The only gripe that England will be carrying is a lack of runs for Morgan and Bopara, and they will be eager to see a return to form for either, as they continue to search for a test number six.
It also looks like England has the perfect balance in the ODI bowling ranks at the moment. You have Anderson, one of the world's premier fast bowlers, as well as Broad who continued his meteoric rise as a bowler. Bresnan bowls the heavy ball and looks to bustle in, while Finn is tall and very quick, with sharp bounce and aggression. Greame Swann is one of the best finger-spinners in the world but enough has been said about him already. The problem for the West Indies is that there are not many chinks in the armour to exploit. I still feel England has a fragile middle-order, but this was not on show on Saturday. I expect England to keep a very similar team, with the possibility of Bairstow or Patel getting a test-run.
The loss of Chris Gayle is surely a huge blow to the team and the spirits of the West Indies side, but judging by their collective effort without him on Saturday, his presence would have hardly made a difference. Anything less than a huge hundred from Gayle would not have been enough, and you cannot expect it of him every time because of the way he approaches each innings. A fiery start along with Smith may have left less for the rest of the order to do, but if you lose 9 wickets for 77 runs in an ODI, you are not very likely to win it.
Another disappointment for the West Indies will be the lack of impact from Sunil Narine. The English have picked him perfectly and taken him for well over four-an-over, his bag of tricks proving far more innocuous on the English wickets. But the West Indies should not lose all hope just yet. They have the talent to score quickly, with Smith, Pollard and Russell quite capable of launching, while the likes of Samuels and the Bravos should get the scoreboard ticking along. However, it seems that the newer players are battling to acclimatise to the English conditions, and it may be too late to right the wrongs that are already so entrenched in West Indian cricket.
The second ODI will be hosted at the Oval, the place where it all began. The first ground to host an English test and the ground from which the legend of the Ashes was born, it has history seeping up between the blades of grass. However, the last two times the West Indies have played here, against South Africa and England, they have won. Just a thought. There is a 30% chance of showers in the evening, but as this is a day game, hopefully the rain stays away.
BEST: Top England Batsman, Jonathan Trott 4/1
Maybe this is a tad naïve, but I don't expect Bell to follow up his runs, and I don't expect Cook to continue the run of opening centuries. I expect the big score to come from the master of pragmatic batting, Jonathan Trott. Though the look of him makes my blood boil, and when he lays out his trench for his guard I wish he would fall inside it so I could pepper him with grenades. But he's looking solid at the moment and I've never been one to ignore a good thing.
VERDICT: England 13/20
Although the West Indies have what it takes on paper to beat an English side if things go right for them, the clear lack of cohesion in their ranks and sheer spineless capitulation time and time again makes me wary to go anywhere near them. They have what it takes to cause an upset, but I think it is unlikely to come here. Don't think twice about backing the English.
Written by @IAMaverickWhite for @Hollywoodbets. Follow them both on Twitter and Facebook now!
Think we've got it wrong? Well leave your comments below and tell us how you think this one is going to play out.