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England v West Indies: First ODI Preview

The Test series might be done and dusted, but this summer’s clash between England and the West Indies is far from done. Next up is a three-match ODI series, and with England weakened by the recent retirement of Kevin Pietersen and the Windies reinforced by the arrival of their IPL contingent, it looks like it could be a cracker of a contest. Below, Betfair’s Ed Hawkins, the SJA Betting Writer of the Year, takes a look at the prospects of each side ahead of the first ODI at the Ageas Bowl.

England
You might have heard that there is no Kevin Pietersen any more in international limited overs cricket It is a shame for the home side as they are shorn of their one undeniably world-class one-day player. And it leaves them with a probable front three of Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Jonathan Trott that doesn’t exactly scream ‘lightning start’.

However, Stuart Broad and James Anderson are expected to return after being rested for the third Test and it seems the host have the edge in the bowling department. That is not to be sniffed at when English conditions consistently favour seamers (and this summer has given us the most stereotypically English conditions in recent memory), plus you’d back their top order to be able to cope with the swinging ball.

West Indies
You might also heard that there is a certain Chris Gayle coming in for West Indies. The blitzing, bombastic, bucaneering opening batsman has returned after a 15-month hiatus and the Windies are all the better for it.

Gayle’s addition to a squad which was already bursting with talent should, hopefully, make the three-match series a close contest. Dwayne Bravo is a fine all-rounder, Kieron Pollard is one of the most fearsome hitters around and Dwayne Smith is not exactly sluggish either.

Venue and conditions
The average first-innings score at the Rose Bowl in 11 ODIs (we have ignored the farce that was USA v Australia in the 2004 Champions Trophy – no one wants to remember that) is 218. In three CB40 matches so far this season the average innings total is 227. It would be a surprise, therefore, if we witnessed a run-glut. And by that we mean a total in excess of 280 – that has happened only twice in the study period.

Indeed, the weather is not conducive to run-making. Showers are forecast from mid-day until 7pm so the players could be on and off – making it likely to be a stop-start, low-scoring game.

Match odds
England are 1.81 [n/a] favourites to take a 1-0 lead with the West Indies 2.20 [1/1]. In terms of recent records the difference in price seems justified.

The home side have won 15 of their last 30 one-day internationals on home soil over the last three years. Darren Sammy’s side, over the same period, have won four matches from 18 on foreign land. It is hardly a meeting of minds.

Still, it is a meeting of skill sets. England, as is so often the case, have the superior bowling attack, and West Indies have arguably the superior batting (or more explosive batting, which often amounts to the same thing). The winner will be the team which recognises the importance of respecting the conditions.

There is no point West Indies attempting to thrash 270 batting first if there are going to be constant rain delays impacting rhythm and concentration. However, if they were to get the option to bat second, in a rain-affected match, they would probably be favourites. As we have said many times, it is easier to score at six runs an over for 20 overs than it is 50.

Top England batsman

In the absence of Pietersen much will depend on Middlesex’s Eoin Morgan, who recently smashed an eye-catching hundred for Middlesex. It is this column’s opinion that Morgan is as good as KP in this format and it is to our joy that the Irishman is so underrated on the markets. He is around 6.00 [5/1] for honours. His credentials could hardly be more impressive, having hit two centuries at the Ageas Bowl from his last three appearances for England.

Top West Indies batsman

It’s all eyes on Gayle. His form is good having smashed Middlesex’s bowlers into oblivion and he certainly has the desire to make an impact. Gayle loves a script which puts him at the centre of attention and he has the makings of a thriller. He is likely to go off at no better than 4.00 [3/1].

Recommended bet
Back Eoin Morgan top England runscorer at around 6.00

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