In the 1970s and '80s, no cricketing rivalry came close to being as one-sided
as the one between England and West Indies: in 37 Tests
between the two teams, England lost 23 and won just one.
Home conditions gave them no advantage either: in 23 Tests
in England, they lost 15 and drew eight, which was easily the worst record
for any team in home conditions against an opposition during that period.
Obviously, much has changed since then. In the 1990s, England closed the gap significantly, drawing both home series
against West Indies by 2-2 margins, and since the 2000s, the tables have turned completely, with West Indies losing each of the five Test series
in England. In 18 Tests during this period, they have lost 14 and won just one, which isn't dissimilar to England's home record against them in the '70s and '80s.
The table above shows in a nutshell West Indies' decline from a powerhouse into an also-ran. The numbers from the wins and losses columns have neatly swapped in the first and third rows, as have the batting and bowling averages; where West Indies once averaged 40 with the bat and 25 with the ball, they now leak 40 per wicket and score around 25 per dismissal. Thanks to those dismal numbers, West Indies' attraction as a marquee team has dwindled too: what used to be a five- or six-Test series every four years in the English summer has now reduced to two or three matches.
Also, with their flurry of losses since 2000, West Indies have relinquished the head-to-head lead they had built up against England in England through the 1980s and '90s. After the first Test
of the 2000 series, which West Indies won by an innings and 93 runs, they had a 29-18 win-loss record in England, but by the end of the first Test of the 2009 series, England had levelled the record at 29 apiece, winning 11 out of 13 Tests between 2000 and 2009. Since then they have moved on to 32 wins, while West Indies languish at 29. That means England have beaten West Indies 14 times since they last lost to them in a home Test.
None of these numbers make pretty reading for West Indian fans, and a break-up of the stats shows an equal decline in top-order batting and fast bowling. In the period between 1970 and 1989, West Indies' top six averaged more than 46 runs per wicket, and averaged one century per Test; since 2000, that average has dropped to 30.60, and eight hundreds have been scored in 18 Tests. Similarly, with the pace attack, the average has dropped from 22 to 36.
Even those post-2000 numbers are beefed up by the performances of Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Courtney Walsh and Curtly Ambrose. In Tests in England since 2000, Chanderpaul averaged 68.21 (1296 runs in 13 Tests
), while Walsh averaged a scarcely believable 12.82 (34 wickets in five Tests
), and Ambrose 18.64 (17 wickets in five
). Exclude those players, and West Indies' stats in the last 17 years look even poorer: the top-order batting average drops to 26.43, while the pace average goes up to 43.48.
The good news for West Indies is that the squad that has come over to England this season is largely made up of newer players, who haven't been scarred by earlier defeats in England. Nine of the 11 players in the Edgbaston Test hadn't played a Test in England before - the only exceptions being opener Kieran Powell and fast bowler Kemar Roach.
With a 3-1 result against South Africa behind them, England are obviously overwhelming favourites - and even more so in home conditions - but West Indies' young team can probably take solace from the fact that they can't do much worse than their recent predecessors, who have lost 11 of their last 13 Tests in England.