England and the West Indies will restart international cricket on Wednesday in a much-anticipated three-match Test series. ANDRE HUISAMEN highlights five players who will be in the spotlight.
A lot will be riding on cricket’s return when the two teams take the Ageas Bowl field in Southampton on Wednesday. The battle between these teams has yielded its fair share of interesting results in recent years. It would be foolish to pick a favourite prior to the first ball, given the external factors and just how convincing the West Indies beat England in last year’s series in the Caribbean.
But, there are a few players in both camps who will have a point or two to prove, while some offer a great deal of talent not to be missed.
The whole world will be watching how the talented Stokes will fare as captain in the absence of Joe Root. Stokes’ playing ability will never be questioned as he is one of the world’s best all-rounders. But, the added pressures of leading his country for the first time could influence his individual game. England, however, boast a successful record for debut captains with only Michael Vaughan losing his first Test as leader this decade.
When the West Indies travelled to England back in 2017, Hope set the cricketing world alight with some of the best batting displays ever on English soil. He walked away with the Man of the Series award having accumulated big centuries in the Headingley Test match. Since then Hope has developed into a brilliant Test batsman with lots of composure and patience, making him a difficult player to dismiss. He will be the danger man for England at the top of the West Indies batting order.
Roach’s experience will be pivotal to the West Indies’ chances of getting results over England. The 32-year-old has come a long way from the quick and fiery bowler who was used to steam in towards batsmen without any real plan of action. Roach has added a lot of discipline to his bowling and is able to mix things up, if needed. Upon the West Indies’ arrival in the UK a few weeks ago, he also publicly stated that their team is determined to get the better of England – something he will have a big hand in should the tide turn in the visitors’ favour.
The fast-bowler, who originally hails from the Caribbean, hasn’t played international cricket since the first Test between England and South Africa in Centurion on Boxing Day last year. In England’s recent warm-up game Archer looked to have regained his normal fitness levels, but his ability to perform consistently at Test level is still questioned. Archer struggled in England’s tour of New Zealand last year and also didn’t have a lot of success in his one encounter with the Proteas. Of course, his pace ability will make him a dangerous bowler for the West Indies to face but one gets the feeling that this could be an important Test series in his career to prove doubters wrong.
While England’s captaincy will be spotlighted in the first Test, the one aspect in which the West Indies have become quite strong is their leadership. Often Holder doesn’t get the credit he deserves and the competitiveness he reinstalled in a struggling West Indies team over the last few years should be recognised. The West Indies have a chance of beating England in the upcoming three Tests, mainly due to the great leadership skills Holder has developed and implemented in the team. And, he also currently occupies the No 1 spot in the Test all-rounder rankings. Holder smashed a highly impressive double ton against England last year, while his bowling will also be key to the West Indies attack.