After an excellent 3-1 series win at home over South Africa, England is all set to host its first pink-ball Test under lights when the first of three Tests against Windies starts Thursday at Edgbaston.
England is currently ranked No. 3 in the world, it is upbeat after beating South Africa, and is playing in its own territory. Up against it is the No. 8 team in the world, a team that has won just two of the 15 Tests it has played in the last two years while losing 10. The Windies squad wears a careworn look, with experience at a premium in all departments.
The good news for the Jason Holder-led team, though, is that most of its batsmen have been among the runs in the three practice matches it has played so far. All of Kraigg Brathwaite, Roston Chase, Jermaine Blackwood and Shane Dowrich got at least one good score heading into the third game, against Derbyshire, where it upped the ante with Kieran Powell scoring 92 and 100 (retired), and Kyle Hope, Shai Hope and Chase all scoring hundreds in the first innings.
The good news for the Jason Holder-led team, though, is that most of its batsmen have been among the runs in the three practice matches it has played so far.
Along with the batsmen doing well, there was a satisfactory performance from Kemar Roach, the comeback man, who returned a five-for in the first game, against Essex. Roach last played Test cricket in January 2016, and if in rhythm, his contribution could be vital from Windies’ point of view in a pace attack that also has Shannon Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph and Miguel Cummins.
Not to forget that despite its mediocre performances on the whole, the Windies did draw a three-Test series 1-1 back home in the Caribbean in 2015 against England, the last time they faced off in the longest format.
England looks strong with Alastair Cook and Joe Root the frontmen at the top of the order, with Jonny Bairstow, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali the big men in the middle, and a strong bowling attack headlined by James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Toby Roland-Jones, Moeen and Stokes, and backup – and possibly a selection conundrum – in the form of Chris Woakes, who has recovered from injury, and Mason Crane, the highly-rated 20-year-old leg-spinner.
But Stuart Law, the Windies coach, had his focus trained on Mark Stoneman, the new opening partner for Cook, as well as Tom Westley and Dawid Malan, both greenhorns in the XI who haven’t yet cemented their spots.
“You always look at any little crack you can find,” said Law in the lead-up to the game. “With a couple of new guys to the fore in Test cricket, that’s an opportunity for our bowlers.”
The West Indies have already played a pink-ball Test, against Pakistan in Dubai last year, which it lost by 56 runs, and also a warm-up game on this tour, while many England players have never encountered the phenomenon..
Man for man, and on form, England appears stronger, but there’s also the other aspect to the Edgbaston Test – the pink ball. The West Indies have already played a pink-ball Test, against Pakistan in Dubai last year, which it lost by 56 runs, and also a warm-up game on this tour, while many England players have never encountered the phenomenon.
Broad, who has taken 379 wickets in 106 Tests, has only ever bowled one delivery with a pink ball, and said, “I just don’t know what to expect. We are just going to have to be so adaptable on the day and figure out what’s going on.”
Moeen, who against South Africa became the first man to take 25 wickets in a four-Test series, added, “It’s different … it feels lighter off the bat. Sometimes you don’t feel like you’ve hit it, and it goes; other times you’ve nailed it, and it doesn’t. But you get used to it … I did by the end of the (net) session.”
It should be interesting if the Windies can put up a fight and compete at its best. If not, England will fancy its chances, even with the pink ball.
England: Joe Root (capt), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow (wk), Stuart Broad, Alastair Cook, Mason Crane, Dawid Malan, Toby Roland-Jones, Ben Stokes, Mark Stoneman, Tom Westley, Chris Woakes.
Windies: Jason Holder (capt), Kraigg Brathwaite, Devendra Bishooo, Jermaine Blackwood, Roston Chase, Miguel Cummins, Shane Dowrich (wk), Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Kyle Hope, Shai Hope (wk), Alzarri Joseph, Kieran Powell, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach.
Tickets for the Day/Night Investec Test match are available, priced from £21 for adults and from £6 for Under 16s via www.edgbaston.com/tickets or by calling 0844 847 1902. Please note that there is only limited availability on days one and three.