The curtain comes down on the international summer this weekend as the West Indies fly in for a crucial T20 double header.
The England side are without a whole host of players, most notably Eoin Morgan and Stuart Broad, both of whom will also miss the ODI tour to India next month, as well as Kevin Pietersen, who is presumably still being “rested”. Graeme Swann will debut as captain on Friday, and almost certainly say farewell to the job forever on Sunday. In a way, the fact that the side is much changed gives the game some worth, as it gives us another chance to see the likes of Alex Hales, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler and man of the moment Jonny Bairstow, all of whom will probably start. The bowling attack is likely to be the same as it was in Cardiff last week, but we’d much rather they just threw caution to the wind and picked one (or both, what the hell) of Scott Borthwick and Danny Briggs.
To be honest, we don’t have a clue who quite a lot of the West Indies squad are. Darren Sammy is still somehow in a job, and the other senior members of the team will be Fidel Edwards and Marlon Samuels, which says a lot about its makeup. There’s a chance Dwayne Smith may open the innings, in what is either a damning indictment of West Indies cricket or T20 as a whole, or both. As is the case with England, the fact that it is something of a step into the unknown for a number of players in the side raises the interest level a notch above zero. Maybe we’ll see the future of West Indies cricket emerge over the weekend. Perhaps not, but in all probability we’ll see a few players who will soon follow in the footsteps of their more illustrious countrymen in choosing the IPL over international cricket.
It’s England in late September, so we are going to refrain from making any bold predictions like ‘it won’t rain’, but it probably won’t rain.
With England’s top order severely lacking in international experience, the onus is on Ravi Bopara to stand up and take responsibility for guiding them along. Even with his finest hour as a one day player fresh in the memory, he still needs runs – he’s only going to have to look at the guys padded up around him to see why – and as the only senior man taking part he has an opportunity to cement his place on the plane to India.
Realistically, England must be favourites, but the inexperience of their top order presents their opponents with a potential area to exploit, particularly because their attack possesses the pace of Fidel Edwards. Whilst the talented Davendra Bishoo will be a threat, Edwards has the ability to rip through the top order on a good day. One feels he will have to have a good day if the West Indies are to prevail.