Writing this in the sub-zero temperatures of Scotland’s brutal winter, the England Cricket Team are currently gearing up for two and a half months of sun-kissed cricket as they embark on their first endeavour of 2019. Whilst we freeze our bails off back here in Blighty, Joe Root and his men are acclimatising to the steaming temperatures of Barbados, getting ready to face the West Indies. Following a turbulent 2018, Joe Root’s boys will be keen to continue their winning ways on a tour consisting of three test matches, five ODIs and three T20 games which, combined with the Big Bash and IPL, will hopefully keep all you cricket nuts out there relatively satisfied until March.
Although Root’s resurrection of results in 2018 has revived a newfound optimism amongst England support, questions still loom regarding team selection, particularly the top order batsmen. The question of who bats at number three continues to evade the England setup, despite Jonny Bairstow making a decent claim for the spot during the latter parts of the Sri Lanka series, and the selectors will no doubt be trying multiple options throughout this tour in order to get things sorted before The Ashes. These problems, coupled with a recurrent tendency to fail on Caribbean soil (1 test series win in the past 15 years), the upcoming task facing the Lions is by no means easy!
The names present in the two 16-man squads look promising from an English perspective. For England, there is potential for a devastating middle order; Jos Buttler looks in particularly good nick at the moment, having become a key run-scorer for Sydney Thunder in the ongoing Australian Big Bash League and has earnt himself a 4th position on the Sixes leader-board in the competition thus far. Contrary to recent England squad selections, we also have a wealth of decent options in terms of a spin attack, with the likes of Adil Rashid, Moeen Ali and Somerset’s Jack Leach providing the selectors with a variety that may prove useful. Assuming the usual spice and swing from ‘The Burnley Express’ himself, I personally have a lot of faith in our bowling attack as a unit, so fingers crossed for wickets galore!
At the beginning of what is a busy cricketing calendar, the tour may prove vital for both England selectors and fans; although the squad has its fair share of established stars, there are some emerging talents who have made a name for themselves on the domestic scene back here in England who have the opportunity to answer some of the team’s issues. It’s going to be an intriguing prospect to see how the likes of Sam Curran, Rory Burns and Keaton Jennings fare in Caribbean conditions, and I think we are all keeping our fingers crossed for solutions to our batting problems before The Ashes. Following some disappointing performances, let’s just pray for some big scores to come from Keaton.
The squad headed by the baby-faced lad from Yorkshire certainly looks like the stronger side on paper. In spite of a few West Indian legends in the mix (namely Kraigg Braithwaite, Darren Bravo and captain Jason Holder) the squad consists of a diverse mix of the old and the new. The team is without an established central framework, and the lack of experience, exemplified by the inclusion of debutants Warrican and Thomas, will inevitably create problems in terms of team cohesion, bonding and task clarity. In theory, things are looking good for England!
Following two warm-up matches, the first test begins this week on the 23rd January, kickstarting what will undoubtedly be an intriguing and important tour for both teams. The 2019 sun rises for the England boys, the stage is set for the new boys to lay down their marker, so prepare yourself for an epic tour.
Image: Herry Lawford via Flickr