West Indies vs England: First ODI Preview

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The West Indies and England go head to head in the first of three One Day Internationals on Friday. 

The West Indies have ground to retrieve in the International Cricket Council's ODI rankings, while England are in preparation for June's Champions Trophy, as an intriguing three-match series in the Caribbean beckons this month.

The teams have not met for a bilateral series in this format of the game for three years, when the English triumphed two-one, but are missing a few key personnel to all but guarantee a similar result.

West Indies v England | Friday 3 March | Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua | 15:30

To Win Match
West Indies 24/10 | Tie 35/1 | England 7/20

West Indies
The men in maroon were, embarrassingly, unable to qualify for the 2017 Champions Trophy - and have slipped to a lowly ninth position in the 12-team ODI rankings. A checkered start to the year on the field - and traditional selection panel stand-offs off it - certainly don't bode well for this affair.

Regardless, the two-time World Twenty20 champions know the shorter forms remain somewhat of a West Indian niche - and relish playing England. Few will forget April 2016's WT20 final, when Carlos Brathwaite struck Stokes for four consecutive sixes - and can look forward to a resumption of that contentious head-to-head battle.

A media ruckus has been made about the Dwayne Leverock-esque Rahkeem Cornwall and, while the giant 24-year-old hasn't cracked the nod for the ODI squad yet, one surmises it's a mere matter of time before his hefty chest dons the proud West Indian crest. For now, focus turns to the players picked.

While the decision to remove Shane Dowrich and Miguel Cummins from the squad - and sideline Marlon Samuels altogether - is questionable, the Windies squad boasts a freshness hardly acknowledged during troublesome times. Jason Holder isn't blossoming as captain yet, but continues to show the wherewithal required to make this work in the future.

Equipped with relative newcomers Shai Hope, Jason Mohammed and Rovman Powell - and allowed mainstays in Devendra Bishoo, Carlos Brathwaite and Shannon Gabriel - Holder will do well to appropriately manage the dynamic of the collective, but not lose his individual ambition - with bat and ball - in the fray. With Andre Russell banned, Holder's all-rounder stocks have certainly increased.

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England
The tourists are smarting from limited-overs and Test series defeat to India late last and earlier this year - and even contrived to lose a couple of matches to Bangladesh prior. While conditions won't be as subcontinent-esque as in Chittagong, Mumbai and surrounds, Antigua won't offer polar opposites.

All too comfortable with a hard ball racing onto - and off - the bat quickly, Jason Roy, Eoin Morgan and company will have to work hard for their runs in North Sound, where the pitch is near infamous for its challenging variables. Joe Root sports a decent amount of experience at this ground, having scored a century and opened the bowling here in 2014's series win.

The absence of Jake Ball and David Willey due to injury might see England toy with affording part-time spinner Root the new ball again. His 17 overs cost a relatively cheap 86 runs - and he snared four wickets - last time. The visitors, too, are without Trevor Bayliss. The head coach has been rested amid a heavy schedule - and assistant coach Paul Farbrace will take charge.

England were convincing enough with the bat in tour matches against the West Indies Cricket Board President's XI and the UWI Vice Chancellor's XI, but it's the bowlers who need to find rhythm and cohesion, soon. Ben Stokes, hot on the heels of his big-money deal at February's Indian Premier League auction, will be vital - particularly his ability to hit the deck hard regardless of flat conditions.

Blessed with a veritable plethora of wicketkeeper-batsmen in Jonny Bairstow, Sam Billings and Jos Buttler, trimming two - and finding space for leg-spinning all-rounder Adil Rashid - is a welcome selection headache for the visiting side. Each of Billings, Bairstow and Buttler, of course, are solid enough to play as specialist batsman.



Verdict: England, 7/20
A touch too much upheaval in direction and selection - and a characteristic lack of positive consistency - will hamper the Windies in the series opener before they, hopefully, turn it around in matches two and three. A twisted dichotomy of West Indies losing, rather than England winning, effectively awaits.

Value bet: A hundred to be scored in the match: Yes 8/10
The Sir Vivian Richards Stadium has hosted 13 ODIs, which have yielded eight centuries - and three 90-odds. Root and Buttler have both gone big here and, if not one of them, Billings, Morgan, Roy or Moeen Ali likely will. Ali - with his nudging, nurdling and ground stroke play seems the most fitting - rather than the other big-hitters.

Written by Jonhenry Wilson for @Hollywoodbets.net

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