West Indies v England, 1st ODI, Antigua March 2, 2017

Old rivalries renewed as Stokes prepares to face his demons

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Match facts

March 3, 2017
Start time 0930 local (1330 GMT)

Big Picture

After the rigours of a winter in the subcontinent - and with little to show for their efforts following gruelling losses in all three formats against India - a spring sojourn in the Caribbean, three ODIs in the course of a fortnight on tour, has the distinct flavour of a rest cure. Nothing, however, is quite that straightforward for one-day cricket at the moment, as West Indies' absence from this year's grand jamboree amply testifies.

Could it be that West Indies' failure to qualify for this summer's Champions Trophy is the wake-up call that cricket in the Caribbean has long needed? This time last year, of course, they were beating England in thrilling fashion in the final of the World T20, but that emotional triumph was achieved, quite literally, in spite of the WICB, which remains defiantly at loggerheads with so many of its star players, as epitomised by its failure to select the man of that match, Marlon Samuels, for these three games.

But at the same time, the cosy assurances that West Indies cricket would forever be invited to the sport's biggest gatherings has been shattered, and already their new coach, Australia's Stuart Law, has admitted that qualification for the 2019 World Cup is the team's over-riding priority.

They are currently ranked at No. 9 in the world, one place outside the automatic slots, and it's fair to say that West Indies' record against England in the coming six months will make or break their ambitions. They have these three games, plus five more in the summer, ahead of September's qualification cut-off, and there's no time like the present to get their late push up and running.

And what of England, the renaissance team of world white-ball cricket? Their stunning coming of age since the 2015 World Cup has been dissected ad nauseam but, two years down the line, Eoin Morgan's men can no longer get away with surprising people with their potential. In particular, despite their fighting efforts in a historically heavy-scoring ODI series in India, their ambitions faltered because of the shortcomings of their bowling attack. These three matches - plus five more against Ireland and South Africa in May - will be critical to their fine-tuning process.

They go into the series with a glut of absentees. David Willey, Mark Wood, Jake Ball and Reece Topley are among the seamers who might have been expected to press their claims in these three games, but injury has struck them all down and instead the stage is set for the likes of Liam Plunkett, Steven Finn and Tom Curran - newly inducted into the squad after a hefty journey from the heart of Sri Lanka.

Form guide

(last five completed matches, most recent first)

West Indies: LLTWL
England: WLLWL

In the spotlight

Sometimes the best place to hide is in plain sight, out in the middle of a cricket field. That is rather how Ben Stokes feels, after admitting his discomfort at talking about his status as England's most newly-minted cricketer. And yet, even without the small matter of USD 2.16 million in his back pocket, following his stunning acquisition by Rising Pune Supergiant in the IPL, Stokes was destined to be the talk of Antigua, given what happened to the last four balls he sent down against West Indies, in the World T20 final in Kolkata. And, even if that experience had all been a bad dream, we'd still have Stokes' last visit to the Caribbean to look back on, and that broken hand courtesy of a punched locker in Barbados. In an otherwise low-key series, his presence alone adds an element of vital intrigue.

It takes two to tango, however, and in the maroon corner, Carlos Brathwaite is revving up to resume his heavy bombardment against an England bowling line-up that - for all their strides as a team - has been under the cosh in recent contests. At least, that's how the narrative is meant to pan out. Unfortunately for Brathwaite, life hasn't been quite that simple since Kolkata. Expectations, both personally and from West Indies' fans, have been through the roof in the past 12 months, much like those four sixes had been. "Unfortunately, it went downhill quickly," he told the Daily Mail. "Because of what happened that night, people expected things and I guess, for a brief period, I expected them as well. It became a negative." He has the chance, over the course of these four matches, to reset his ambitions, and those of his team.

Team news

Kieran Powell, back in West Indies' one-day squad for the first time in three years, could pick up where he left off by facing England in an ODI at Antigua, just as he did on his last appearance in March 2014. If selected, he is likely to open the batting with Evin Lewis, who cemented his claim to a top-order berth with 148 in a thrilling run-chase against Sri Lanka in November.

West Indies (probable) 1 Evin Lewis, 2 Kieran Powell, 3 Kraigg Brathwaite, 4 Shai Hope (wk), 5 Jonathan Carter, 6 Carlos Brathwaite, 7 Rovman Powell, 8 Jason Holder (capt), 9 Devendra Bishoo, 10 Ashley Nurse, 11 Shannon Gabriel

Though Ball remains with the England squad, he didn't look comfortable during training and is unlikely to be risked following his knee injury. Alex Hales is likely to sit out as well as he fine-tunes his recovery from a broken hand, while Tom Curran is still in transit and won't be in the frame until the second match at the earliest. Therefore, Sam Billings is expected to open with Jason Roy, with Jonny Bairstow squeezed out of a strong middle order. Plunkett and Finn could both feature, along with both the front-line spinners, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid.

England (probable) 1 Jason Roy, 2 Sam Billings, 3 Joe Root, 4 Eoin Morgan (capt), 5 Jos Buttler (wk), 6 Ben Stokes, 7 Moeen Ali, 8 Chris Woakes, 9 Adil Rashid, 10 Liam Plunkett, 11 Steven Finn.

Pitch and conditions

In a development that would make Antigua's local heroes Curtly Ambrose and Andy Roberts weep, Caribbean wickets tend to be pretty slow and low these days. Nevertheless, England's captain, Eoin Morgan, admitted he had been surprised by the amount of grass still in evidence on this surface. With a 9.30am start in the offing, there may be some early assistance for his seamers if he manages to call correctly and bowl first.

Stats and trivia

  • Stokes' locker punch in 2014 was not the wisest shot he has ever played, but dare one say it, his frustrations were justified. In his last three ODIs in the Caribbean (all in Antigua, in fact) he made a grand total of nine runs in three innings, and took no wickets in six overs.

  • Brathwaite's struggles to live up to his Kolkata heroics have been telling. A grand total of 248 runs at 16.53 in 18 subsequent innings, with his solitary half-century coming in his one-off Test appearance against India in Antigua. Having struck four sixes in as many balls in Kolkata, he's managed 11 more in 301.

  • It is technically an away fixture for England although, in keeping with recent Test tours of the Caribbean, the visiting support is likely to be vast. Of a ground capacity of 13,000, some 7,000-8,000 tickets have been sold to England supporters.

Quotes

"I know the media will bill the series as Carlos Brathwaite v Ben Stokes, but it's West Indies v England."
Carlos Brathwaite astutely gauges the level of personal interest in his rivalry with England's allrounder

"We do have one eye on the Champions Trophy, getting a reasonable squad together before then and one idea of nailing down our team."
Eoin Morgan states his goals for the series

Andrew Miller is UK editor of ESPNcricinfo. @miller_cricket

Comments have now been closed for this article

  • Gowers_Great_Tiger_Moth_Flyby on March 3, 2017, 14:51 GMT

    "Eng are expected to win, so good performances shouldn't be praised" (DSA). We wouldn't expect anything else from the likes of you.

  • Patrick_Clarke on March 3, 2017, 13:18 GMT

    This stadium must take the biscuit for continued ground incompetence. There should be no excuse for bowlers footholds to be wet unless the whole ground has been flooded or some other extreme weather event has happened. Shouldn't the ICC have fixed penalties for grounds when such crass delays occur. Would a 2 year ban from holding any further ICC sanctioned match be unduly harsh?

  • D.S.A on March 3, 2017, 13:15 GMT

    England go into the series as big favourites, despite being the away side. That says a lot of the West Indies. The WI have some decent individuals (Gabriel, Hope, Bishoo and some more), but collectively, they cannot fill the remaining gaps, to field a strong side. However, this is a win-win scenario for them as they are not expected to win. Maybe Powell should be at 3? Eng are expected to win, so good performances shouldn't be praised. Bad ones will lead to criticism. Will Woakes bowl out with the new ball? Nop!

    Btw, for people asking why Narine and co are not playing, they missed the recent 50-over domestic series, and also, they are probably playing in the PSL (and would probably choose to stay if they had a choice), injured (which I think Dwayne Bravo is, though he would play in the PSL, if he wasn't injured), or are banned for self-inflicted, disciplinary reason (Bravo insulting Cameron, I think, and we all know about Russell, but I can't say it, otherwise this won't get posted).

  •   cricfan2483937233 on March 3, 2017, 12:50 GMT

    West Indies surely reconsider their selection terms, because of their immature disputes in cricket board specifically in their selection committee is doing a lot harm to their international cricket. Highly talented players like sunil narine (top spinner in all formats), chris gayle(worlds most dangerous hitter n experienced veteran) , smaule badree, andre russel (ferocious hitter n wicket taking bowler), bishoo, darren bravo (Solid Batsman of Test n ODI's , heroics innings against Pak in UAE Test) , DR Smith (2nd highest top scorer, 3rd most sixes in PSL 2017), Sammy (Mature n experienced captain), marlon samules, ravi rampal etc. all these players are vigorously talented and game changers, but unfortunately for unethical reasons they are not in the playing IX. The unprofessional behavior of their board is surely hurting the fans and cricket of the west indies.

  • Gowers_Great_Tiger_Moth_Flyby on March 3, 2017, 11:54 GMT

    Finn?!? Just how many chances does this no-hoper get? A very poor and backward selection. Lets hope the 7-8,000 England fans have something to cheer about - their unwavering support is admirable despite mixed results. They follow their team all over the world and are crickets real supporters.

  • Liger1 on March 3, 2017, 11:01 GMT

    @R_U_4_REAL_NICK are you joking? Rashid was England's highest wicket tacker in the last 12 months.

  • dezzydezdezer on March 3, 2017, 10:49 GMT

    'It is technically an away fixture for England although, in keeping with recent Test tours of the Caribbean, the visiting support is likely to be vast. Of a ground capacity of 13,000, some 7,000-8,000 tickets have been sold to England supporters. '

    Always been our favourite holiday destination & for that reason I can't understand why the North v South series isn't being held there too. May be down to availability of pitches.

  • cricfan06484158 on March 3, 2017, 9:35 GMT

    Jason Mohammed at 5 Carter 6 Powell 7 Holder 8

  • rubbas on March 3, 2017, 5:44 GMT

    This WI bowling line-up looks rather weak to me. They have done without Carlos and bring in a genuine bowler. The idea of using all-rounders in ODI's is so played out. If they are good its another, but..

  • 2.14istherunrate on March 3, 2017, 5:35 GMT

    Do the West Indies have a rabbit in their hat because this looks like a new side with almost no familiar names in the batting? I think England should win but I would not put my house on it. Anyway great to be away from the subcontinent at last!

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