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February 27, 2014
Match FactsFebruary 28, Antigua
Croft: Holder reminds me of Joel Garner
The Big Picture
This is an odd one-day series, squeezed in before the World Twenty20 to comply with FTP requirements (the Tests are held next year), but it is possible to see value in the contests for both sides - not least because there is a 50-over World Cup in a year. England's recent travails need little repeating, and this brief tour is a chance for bonding and revival ahead of Bangladesh, while West Indies can look to build on the relative success of a shared series in New Zealand when the odds were stacked against them.
Both teams have said they will approach the matches as one-day internationals, rather than elongated practice for the Twenty20s - a three-match T20 series follows in Barbados - but that is perhaps slightly truer of West Indies than England. The hosts can have the flexibility of picking their bespoke squads, which includes putting the captaincy in Dwayne Bravo's hands rather than Darren Sammy's, but England have engineered their squad with the focus on the T20s to follow.
For very different reasons, two of the game's most destructive batsmen will be missing. Chris Gayle's absence is injury-related - and West Indies will have everything crossed he is fit for their World T20 defence - while England are beginning life permanently without Kevin Pietersen.
The last time England were in the Caribbean, Pietersen was the Player of the Tournament at the World Twenty20; now they will be putting their faith in the likes of Eoin Morgan, Joe Root and Jos Buttler to sparkle in the middle order. Even without Gayle, West Indies are not short on power in their top order with the likes of Dwayne Smith, Marlon Samuels, Dwayne Bravo and the improving pair of Kieran Powell and Kirk Edwards.
Watch out for...
Sunil Narine did not have a huge impact in the one-day series in New Zealand - taking three wickets from four matches - and was left out against Ireland, but there are plenty of reasons to play him here. England's record against unorthodox spin (and often spin of any sort) in limited-overs cricket is far from impressive.
This is a rare chance for Stuart Broad to take charge of England for more than a few days. But not only will his captaincy skills be key, he is now the attack-leader in the limited-overs formats. England do not have many bowlers who can change a game in a spell: Broad is one of them. How he uses himself around the various fielding restrictions will be interesting to watch.
With no Gayle, Smith will likely open the batting as he did against Ireland where he scored a brisk half-century. West Indies could well be tempted to take the pace off the ball against the England line-up.
West Indies (possible) 1 Dwayne Smith, 2 Kieron Powell, 3 Darren Bravo, 4 Kirk Edwards, 5 Marlon Samuels, 6 Dwayne Bravo (capt), 7 Darren Sammy, 8 Denesh Ramdin (wk), 9 Sunil Narine, 10 Jason Holder, 11 Nikita Miller
If England's warm-up match is anything to go by - and you would think it would be - the only uncapped player they are set to blood is Alex Hales. He opened alongside Luke Wright in against the Vice Chancellor's XI; the other candidates to open would have been Michael Lumb and Moeen Ali. However, Eoin Morgan missed training with a knee problem and if he is ruled out, Moeen could earn a debut.
England (possible) 1 Alex Hales, 2 Luke Wright, 3 Ben Stokes, 4 Joe Root, 5 Eoin Morgan, 6 Ravi Bopara, 7 Jos Buttler (wk), 8 Tim Bresnan, 9 Stuart Broad (capt), 10 Chris Jordan, 11 James Tredwell
Pitch and conditions
Expect the ball to be going through knee height, rather than chest height. That, with a few exceptions, is the way these days in the Caribbean. The forecast suggests a chance of rain, but nothing that looks terminal.
Stats and trivia
"I don't want to say this is preparation for the Twenty20 World Cup, because these are three one-day internationals - and we have the 50-over World Cup round the corner."
"The warm-up match was the first 50-over match I've captained, so it was good to get one in before the internationals."
Andrew McGlashan is an assistant editor at ESPNcricinfoFeeds: Andrew McGlashan
© ESPN Sports Media Ltd.
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