Will Trent Bridge witness a Chris Gayle-explosion? (Image courtesy: Getty)
Will Trent Bridge witness a Chris Gayle-explosion? (Image courtesy: Getty)

My opening lines of the first ODI preview between England and West Indies was a question for all. Did anyone of us ever imagine that West Indies cricket would reach a stage wherein they will have to play the qualifiers to cement a place in World Cup (2019)? After all, they were the reigning champions in the first two editions. However, they are certain to play World Cup 2019 qualifiers after defeat in the ongoing series opener. Ranked No. 9 in latest ODI rankings, they had to win the five ODI series by 5-0, or a 4-0 margin. Nonetheless, they appeared out of form in the opening encounter against a daunting hosts.

In the post-match conference, a dejected West Indies skipper Jason Holder told Sky Sports, “We didn’t bowl as well as I thought we should. We were a little inconsistent with our lines and lengths. We leaked boundaries.” On the batting front, he added, “If you’re not getting boundaries, you need to rotate the strike. In the middle we got a little stuck. It’s an area we really need to improve on in terms of rotating the strike. It’s been an area of concern for a while now. We are a naturally boundary-hitting team but if the boundaries aren’t coming, we need to find another option.”

Clearly, Holder is facing the heat. The talented 26-year-old all-rounder is finding it tough to maintain the legacy of former Caribbean greats. Yet, he is not willing to drop his shoulders. “The series isn’t over – it’s just one game down. We’ve got to focus on this series first”, stated Holder. He wants his side to concentrate on the remaining matches, and not ponder upon the (World Cup qualification) opportunity lost. But the bigger question remains: will visitors walk the talk?

West Indies are aware of the follies. They need to gel as a unit and brush their skills a bit in all departments. They were lethargic on the field, bowled in ordinary lines and went in a shell after a whirlwind start provided by Chris Gayle. They need more refined roles in the batting line-up. Probably, someone has to anchor the innings, while others need to keep the scoreboard ticking.

Trent Bridge, Nottingham will also expected be a batting track. But, it gets some purchase for spinners as well. It will be interesting to see whether West Indies go ahead with both their wicketless spinners, in Ashley Nurse and Devendra Bishoo, from the first ODI.

West Indies likely XI: Chris Gayle, Evin Lewis, Shai Hope (wk), Marlon Samuels, Jason Mohammad, Rovman Powell, Jason Holder (c), Ashley Nurse, Devendra Bishoo/Miguel Cummins/Alzarri Joseph, Kerserk Williams, Jerome Taylor

From England’s point of view, things are bright. They came back well after conceding 48 runs in the first 6 overs. Their fielding was at par after Joe Root dropped a sitter at slips in the first over. Every bowler remained economical and helped in West Indies’ being under check. Eoin Morgan used his options judiciously.

There are two seamers, Tom Curran and Jake Ball, waiting in the wings but should get a chance later in the series. Maybe, after England pocket the series. On the other hand, Jason Roy’s comeback seems tough following Jonny Bairstow’s maiden ODI century at the top.

The only aspect were England will look to work upon is: hitting the stumps more often on the field, and grabbing all catching opportunities.

England likely XI: Jonny Bairstow, Alex Hales, Joe Root, Eoin Morgan (c), Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wk), Moeen Ali, Chris Woakes, Adil Rashid, David Willey, Liam Plunkett

Squads:

England: Eoin Morgan (c), Moeen Ali, Jonny Bairstow, Jake Ball, Jos Buttler (wk), Tom Curran, Alex Hales, Liam Plunkett, Adil Rashid, Joe Root, Jason Roy, Ben Stokes, David Willey, Chris Woakes

West Indies: Jason Holder (c), Jason Mohammed, Sunil Ambris, Devendra Bishoo, Miguel Cummins, Chris Gayle, Kyle Hope, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Evin Lewis, Ashley Nurse, Rovman Powell, Marlon Samuels, Jerome Taylor, Kesrick Williams

Time: 17:00 IST