Format cuts England's advantage
England ahead in recent contests
When England and West Indies last played each other, in the group game of the 2011 World Cup, the context was entirely different. While West Indies had managed to keep themselves afloat by beating the three lower-ranked teams in their group after a loss in their opening game to South Africa, England were struggling to stay in the tournament after an indifferent run in the group stage where they beat South Africa but suffered shock losses to Bangladesh and Ireland. In that clash in Chennai, England were on the ropes after Chris Gayle's stunning start but managed to recover and eke out a close win. However, the joy for both teams was short lived as they crashed out in humiliating fashion in the quarter-finals (both ten-wicket losses). Since then, England have gone on to win three out of four bilateral series (excluding the one-off game against Ireland) with their most recent win coming against Pakistan in the UAE. The situation for West Indies has been the opposite. They lost home series against Pakistan and India (both by a 3-2 margin) and were beaten 4-1 in India. However, in their most recent home series against Australia, West Indies performed well above themselves to secure a 2-2 result.
Since 2000, West Indies' slide in Tests has been alarming. However, in ODIs, they have been a far bigger threat. In 2004, they came back from the brink to win the Champions Trophy final and made the final of the next edition of the tournament in 2006. As is the case for West Indies against most teams, their win-loss record against England is better in home games. Since 2000, their win-loss ratio in home ODIs is 1.20 while the corresponding number in away games is 0.66. They played England twice in neutral venues (both in India) in the Champions Trophy 2006 and the 2011 World Cup and lost on both occasions. West Indies' steady decline in the last decade becomes even more apparent when one considers that they had a positive win-loss record against most top teams before 2000.
|Host country||Matches||Wins||Losses||W/L ratio|
|West Indies (since 2000)||12||6||5||1.20|
|England (since 2000)||11||4||6||0.66|
|India (since 2000)||2||0||2||0.00|
|Overall since 2000||25||10||13||0.77|
|ODIs till 1999||58||31||25||1.24|
|Overall in ODIs||83||41||38||1.07|
West Indies' away record a worry
In their last series, West Indies nearly pulled off a stunning upset against Australia. Despite the absence of Gayle and Dwayne Bravo, West Indies pushed Australia in the five-match series and managed to secure a 2-2 result (the remaining game ending in a tie). However, that is as far as West Indies have been able to go. Since 2007, they have managed to win just one bilateral home series against a top team (excluding Bangladesh and Zimbabwe). In two home series against India and Pakistan, the only matches they managed to win were dead-rubber games (after losing the first three matches). Their away record in the same period is hardly inspiring. Of the nine series they have played in away/neutral venues, West Indies have won just one. They can, however, draw some confidence from the fact that their only away series win came against England in 2007 (2-1). The win-loss ratio for West Indies in home and away matches since 2007 is 0.47 and 0.19 respectively.
England have traced a very different path in ODIs in the last five years. Despite their lack of success in major tournaments, they have stayed extremely competitive in bilateral series. Their win-loss ratio in home matches (1.25) is much better than their performances in away/neutral games (0.58). In the last two years, England have won home series against Australia, Pakistan and Sri Lanka by a close margin of 3-2 each time. Two of their worst defeats have come in away series - they lost 6-1 in Australia and 5-0 in India. However, they did manage to salvage their away form by defeating Pakistan 4-0 in the UAE. England's home series record (Seven wins and three losses) gives them a major advantage over West Indies, who have hardly threatened in away matches.
* Excludes matches played against Bangladesh, Zimbabwe and other non Test-playing teams
|Team||Series venue||No of series||No of series won||No of series lost||No of series drawn||W/L ratio in matches|
|West Indies||Home series||8||1||6||1||0.47|
|West Indies||Away/neutral series||9||1||8||0||0.19|
Gayle's comeback a cause for cheer
Given Gayle's spectacular form in IPL 2012 and his excellent track record in ODIs, West Indies will be more than glad to have him back. Gayle last played in an ODI in the 2011 World Cup and his absence deprived West Indies of powerful starts. He is just one century away from surpassing Brian Lara as the leading century maker for West Indies in ODIs. While his overall stats make for impressive reading, it is his performance in chases that sets him apart. He has scored 10 of his 19 centuries in chases at an average of 41.67 and strike rate of 87.81. He has a high average (51.88) in matches against England in England but a surprisingly low strike rate (70.22). Gayle, who was instrumental in setting up West Indies' series win in England in 2007, undoubtedly adds to the threat posed by West Indies in the shorter form.
|v England (overall)||25||946||43.00||82.18||2/4|
|v England (in England)||12||467||51.88||70.22||1/2|
Pietersen's absence could be felt
Although Kevin Pietersen had not been in the greatest form for the last two years, he had reversed the trend in the series against Pakistan by scoring consecutive centuries. Pietersen's sudden decision to retire from ODIs will have a major impact on England's batting, considering that his average and strike rate are the highest among England batsmen with 4000-plus runs. England, however, have benefited vastly from Alastair Cook's renaissance as an ODI batsman. Cook has been remarkable in recent matches scoring over 1000 runs at an average of 53.95 and strike rate of 91.51. While Jonathan Trott provides stability at the top, Eoin Morgan adds value to the middle order by virtue of his aggressive approach.
Kieron Pollard, already an integral part of West Indies' Twenty20 setup, has now established himself as an allrounder in the ODI team. In the fourth ODI against Australia, Pollard proved his worth by scoring a century off 69 balls, the joint second-fastest by a West Indies batsman. Along with Pollard, the presence of powerful hitters like Andre Russell and Darren Sammy makes the West Indies middle order extremely dangerous. Gayle is likely to be partnered at the top of the order by Lendl Simmons, who has made a fairly impressive start to his ODI career (11 fifty-plus scores in 36 matches). Darren Bravo is yet to prove himself in the shorter form but will be buoyed after his century in the tour game against Middlesex.
Experience gives England the edge
While the West Indies' batting line-up matches up well with England's, the relative lack of bowling experience could hurt the visitors. Dwayne Bravo's return adds variety to an attack that will miss the aggression of Kemar Roach. Sunil Narine, who had great success against Australia in the recent ODI series, has picked up 14 wickets in eight matches at an economy rate of 3.79. Narine was not quite at his best on his Test debut, but given his impressive display in IPL 2012, he will be a tough bowler to handle in the shorter form.
James Anderson suffered on the flat tracks in the subcontinent during the World Cup but will be far more dangerous in helpful conditions in England. Graeme Swann, who is already England's most successful spinner in ODIs, has excellent stats in the period (average 24.06 and economy rate 4.30). Steven Finn bowled superbly in the series against Pakistan and finished with a series haul of 13 wickets (from four matches) including two four-wicket hauls. Finn, who has had an excellent start to his ODI career (28 wickets at 23.92), gives England a definite advantage on the bowling front going into the series.
Madhusudhan Ramakrishnan is a sub-editor (stats) at ESPNcricinfo