Five players set to play a key role in the upcoming West Indies v England ODI series.
England take on West Indies in a three match ODI series, starting in Antigua on the 3rd March. This series is set to be an intriguing one, with England out for revenge following their final over heartbreak at the hands of Carlos Brathwaite in the T20 World Cup final back in 2016. England will be without opening bowler, David Willey, and opening batsmen, Alex Hales, due to respective injuries. England will be looking to continue the positive steps they have taken since their embarrassing ODI World Cup group stage exit back in 2015, ahead of the Champions Trophy that begins later this year in June. Meanwhile, the West Indies head into the series without a number of star names, as frequently seems to be the case in West Indian cricket over recent years. They have picked a squad that fails to include Marlon Samuels, Sunil Narine and Suliemen Benn to name a few. One-day specialist Andre Russell also misses out as he begins his year-long ban for his doping code violation. We will look into five key players who are set to shine in this three match series.
1. Sam Billings
Yet to fully nail down a regular birth in England’s ODI squad, Billings has found himself batting up and down the order, ranging from opening the batting, to filling the role as finisher down at number 7. With Alex Hales unavailable as he is yet to fully recover from a broken hand, Billings is set to get a continued run opening the batting for the three match series. Billings may not be one of the marquee names in this England squad, but having featured in the IPL, Big Bash and the PSL, it shows how highly rated his talent is around the world. His List A batting average of over 45 and an impressive strike rate of 109 awith a top score of 175 in the one-day format, Billings has all the talent to become a successful and regular performer for this England side given a consistent run in the side, which can start with his chance in this series.
Billings is a genuine modern-day cricketer, at just 25, he has plenty of time to improve. Having played around the world in the various T20 franchise competitions, he has shown he can adapt to bat in all conditions and pitches with many experts labelling him as England’s best player of spin. With the ability to play all around the wicket with both blistering power and deft sweeps and dabs, expect to see Billings improve on his current ODI average of a touch over 30 (from just 6 innings) and take this rare opportunity to flourish at the top of the order with his dynamic stroke-play.
2. Eoin Morgan
Morgan has been lauded for his inventive modern-day captaincy that has helped to transform England’s ODI fortunes. However, there were murmurs starting to grow as to whether he deserved a place in the side with his form with the bat, despite his impressive spell as captain. He had endured three consecutive quiet series, starting at the end of 2015, away to both Pakistan and South Africa and then at home to Sri Lanka, registering just one half century in 12 innings, which had left questions over his batting. A decision not to travel to Bangladesh led to further doubts over his future in the England side, with Jos Buttler successfully leading the side to a 2-1 victory. However, following a successful series against Pakistan prior to the controversial Bangladesh series and also away in India, where Morgan flourished in both the ODI and T20 matches, questions over his position in the side are well and truly behind him.
Having given up on any realistic hopes of a test recall at the age of 30, Morgan will be able to spend his time focusing on the shorter formats of the game, which will only enhance his batting fortunes. Morgan recently stated his desire to continue leading his side until the 2019 World Cup, expect to see his run-scoring ability to feature highly during that time, starting in this series against the West Indies.
3. Jake Ball
England have had continued success in ODI cricket with the bat, having set a new world record for the highest team score (444-3) against Pakistan back in 2016, but questions remain over their bowling attack’s ability to tie batsmen down in the one-day format, having failed to win with scores of over 350 on two separate occasions against India earlier this year. Appeals for the recall of the experienced Stuart Broad have fallen on deaf ears, and with the injured David Willey missing out in this series, the pressure will be on England’s bowling attack yet again. Jake Ball has yet to nail down a regular spot in England’s ODI starting XI but has more than impressed when he’s had the chance to pull on the England shirt. A match-winning 5/51 on his ODI debut against Bangladesh really highlighted his ability with the ball, which earned him a continued run in the side during the tour against India. With injuries and the resting of players, Ball has the opportunity to thrive with the new ball against the West Indies and show that he is the answer to England’s struggles with the white ball.
4. Carlos Brathwaite
Carlos Brathwaite, the man who single-handedly won the West Indies a second T20 World Cup title, taking Ben Stokes for four consecutive sixes in the final over to secure an unlikely victory. This was the game that Brathwaite really made his name in the world of international cricket, with many expecting him to push on to be a successful and destructive all-rounder for the West Indies. Having been picked up to play in both the IPL and the Big Bash, Brathwaite is seen as a genuine match winner at the highest level. He has had success with the ball in ODI cricket, taking 21 wickets in his first 20 matches, but his batting has really faltered given his ability, averaging a lowly 13.41, with a top score of just 33 not out. However, with some key names missing for the West Indies, greater responsibility may be placed on Brathwaite to step up with the bat, and not just with the ball. With this series providing Brathwaite with his first chance to face England since his famous performance in the T20 final, expect to see his confidence on a high, against a depleted England bowling attack, and a return to his destructive match-winning best with both bat and ball in this series.
5. Kieran Powell
The big news that comes from the West Indies camp is the return of opening batsmen Kieran Powell. Having played his last game for West Indies back in 2014 and consequently deciding to take a break from cricket, instead trying his hand at baseball (with little success). However, having returned to first-class cricket in March 2016, Powell has been in fine form with the bat, averaging over 64 in West Indies regional Super50 competition, registering three centuries and two half-centuries in a rich run of five games (105, 135, 52, 106 and 80). With team ODI scores continuing to rise, expect to see Powell take it to England’s bowlers at the top of the innings and register a maiden ODI century during the three match series. Having been fully refreshed both physically and mentally from international cricket, the scene is set for Powell to take this series against England by storm with his powerful batting.