Australian tours of the West Indies have always been highly anticipated affairs. To be sure this meeting lacks some of the glamour of the epic contests of the past, being somewhat overshadowed by something or other going on in India at the moment and the latest switch hitting controversy involving Kevin Pietersen, but it promises to be a gripping contest nonetheless. Some of the matches might even go to a fifth day. And compared to a few other series recently, three Test matches feels positively luxuriant.
After the West Indies made a mockery out of this particular website’s pre-series prediction of the limited overs contests, the home team will feel suitably confident heading into the Test matches. They have performed well across the board over the past month, suggesting that the long awaited new dawn for West Indian cricket may finally be arriving.
At the risk of being outed as dastardly old curmudgeons with nothing positive to say, we feel compelled to point out that any resurgence will probably have to wait a little while longer. At least until the IPL season is over, because the West Indies definitely need all their best players available to compete consistently on the Test stage.
The absence of Chris Gayle is no surprise, but Sunil Narine being called up by some no-mark IPL team, who will no doubt be thrashed by Pune, is a big blow. Narine may not have yet made his Test debut but he showed in the ODI series that he is capable of making most of the Australian batsmen look pretty foolish, particularly since they are utterly incapable of picking his wrong ‘un. The alternative spinner, Devendra Bishoo, will hold far fewer fears for the Australian batsmen. Although going by our previous predictions, he will probably bag thirty wickets for the series now.
Otherwise the West Indians are little changed from the team who most recently lost 2-0 in a three Test series in India last November. Marlon Samuels is another who will be missing on IPL duty, but considering his contribution in the ODI’s, ‘missing’ is being perhaps a touch generous. In his stead returns Narsingh Deonarine, who will be hoping to challenge Samit Patel for Test cricket’s most rotund physique, whilst Ravi Rampaul also returns after having missed the ODI’s owing to a bout of Dengue fever.
The expected key performers for the home team look to be the paceman Kemar Roach, whilst with the bat much rests as usual upon the experienced Shivnarine Chanderpaul. The wildcard for the West Indies is Darren Bravo, who made his mark on Test cricket during the previous Indian tour. Consistently strong contributions from him could make this a very closely contested series indeed.
After skittling a frankly-couldn’t-be-bothered Indian outfit in the southern summer, most of the Australian media, and the entire Channel Nine commentary team, united in declaring the current Australia squad as the World’s Number One Test team in waiting. Frankly, we here at 51allout are a little more sceptical about the quality of the current Australian outfit. Even a bus load of nursing home residents on their way home from a hard afternoon of bingo would have had little trouble in overcoming India. Plus they would have been far more energetic in the field.
With Shane Watson coming back for the hapless Shaun Marsh, the Australian batting line-up does look far stronger, and it will be interesting to see who of Watson and David Warner takes up the vacant number three spot. For what its worth, our money is on Watson. As for the bowlers, James Pattinson is expected to return at the expense of Ryan Harris. Frankly neither is exactly setting the world on fire at the moment. Pattinson has been terrible since his return from injury in late February whilst Harris himself has admitted he should have been dropped from the one day squad for “bowling a heap of rubbish”. And of course the front-line spinner remains Nathan Lyon. Although if the pitches are as low and slow as they are predicted to be there is a good chance he will be paired with Ashes legend Michael Beer at some point.
Otherwise the main concern for Australia is who will score all the runs. They can’t rely on one-off contributions from Warner, Michael Clarke or Ricky Ponting forever, and will be hoping for some more solid contributions from elsewhere. Ed Cowan’s ability to score runs along with occupying the crease will be heavily scrutinised and much will be expected of Matthew Wade being able to bat deep with the tail, something his predecessor Brad Haddin could be rarely bothered to do.
Regular readers would probably have learnt by now to treat 51allout predictions with a mixture of both disdain and pity. Well, at the risk of disappointing nobody we are prepared to make complete fools out of ourselves once again. The West Indies have shown some definite signs of improvement of late, but that counts for little when messrs Bravo, Narine, Pollard et al are all over in India earning megabucks for hitting DLF Maximums. Or something. The quality in the Australian squad, particularly with the new ball in hand, should be enough to see them safely home.
As always we will be following the action both here and on Twitter (@51allout), which will provide plenty of opportunity for you all to remind us of how bad our predictions were.
Australia to win 3-0.