Following on from an unexpectedly close 2-1 Test series win by the hosts, and success for the visitors in the sole T20 International in Durham over the weekend, the West Indies tour of England draws to a close with a five-match ODI series to be played out in the autumnal chill of late September.
The first game is on Tuesday at Old Trafford in Manchester, and will be followed by matches at Trent Bridge in Nottingham, the County Ground in Bristol and The Oval in south London before finally finishing on 29th September at the Rose Bowl in Southampton – by which time woolly hats, scarves and gloves will no doubt be the order of the day – especially for the visitors!
For England, this will be their first ODI encounter since their surprise and agonising defeat to eventual champions Pakistan in the semi-final of the ICC Trophy held on home soil in June that many pundits expected them to win. Prior to that tournament, England had won the last three ODI series they had played- home wins against the Proteas of South Africa (2-1) in late May and neighbours Ireland (2-0) earlier that month, as well as a 3-0 away win in Antigua and Barbados against their current opponents, the West Indies.
England have made strong progress in white-ball cricket over the last two years, but still only sit fourth on the ICC ODI rankings and that first 50-over major tournament title still eludes them. They will see this series as valuable training ahead of the next World Cup to be held in England in 2019.
As for West Indies, their 50-over form has been much more patchy, and they currently sit ninth in the ODI rankings, outside the automatic qualification spots for the 2019 World Cup. They need a 4-0 or 5-0 series win against England to dislodge Sri Lanka from the last qualification spot and avoid having to go through a qualification tournament to avoid missing out on another major tournament after they failed to qualify for the Champions Trophy.
Prior to their one-off game in Ireland being washed out as a no result a few days ago, the Windies had lost a home series against India 3-1 in late June, only managed a 1-1 drawn series with Afghanistan in St Lucia earlier that month, and lost 2-1 to Pakistan in Guyana in April. They also lost the aforementioned home series against England 3-0.
However, since all of those series, there has been a thaw in relations between a number of senior players and the Cricket West Indies board which sees several big names return to the squad for this series and which they will hope will generate a turn around in fortunes in 50-over cricket. The effect of the return of Jamaicans Chris Gayle, Marlon Samuels and Jerome Taylor will be intriguing to watch, and hopefully result in a close series befitting of the West Indies of old.
It is those three returning Jamaican veterans who headline the potential personal milestone for the West Indies side too:
Chris Gayle (West Indies)
Big hitting self-styled “Universe Boss” Gayle currently sits in joint eighth place worldwide for ODI centuries alongside India’s Sourav Ganguly and Sri Lankan Tilakaratne Dilshan. All three have 22 centuries to their name in the format, and one more will see the big man claim that eighth spot all for himself.
He also has 17,972 runs for West Indies across all three formats of the game, needing just 28 more to notch up his 18,000.
Marlon Samuels (West Indies)
Expect salutes a-plenty if all rounder Samuels makes an appearance, as it will be his 188th in ODI colours for West Indies, enough to take him past the legendary Sir Vivian Richards and into eighth place for his national side.
Jerome Taylor (West Indies)
Taylor’s 126 ODI wickets are enough to see him tenth in the West Indies’ all time list – five more will see him overtake fellow quick Mervyn Dillon and move into ninth place.
Eoin Morgan (England)
Captain Morgan may be a beverage that hails from the visitors’ neck of the woods, but it is England’s skipper who will be looking to raise a glass to personal success. He has scored 5,028 runs for England in ODIs (excluding the runs he scored for Ireland before switching allegiance) and needs just 65 to move past Paul Collingwood into second place all-time for his adopted country. Only Ian Bell has scored more.
Joe Root (England)
England’s Test captain will be looking for the 45 runs he needs to move past Graeme Hick’s 3,846 in ODI cricket, and in the process move into his country’s top ten all-time.
Jos Buttler (England)
India’s MS Dhoni recently became the first keeper from any country to notch up 100 stumpings in ODI cricket -so it’s perhaps surprising that Buttler is England’s joint leading disturber of the bails in ODIs with just 15 to his name, alongside Alec Stewart. One more bit of nifty glove-work behind the wickets will see him become a national record holder in his own right!