England enter the three-Test series in the West Indies high on confidence, having defeated No1 India 4-1 at home and Sri Lanka 3-0 in their backyard last year.
England have most bases covered and should come out on top against Windies. Adding to their sense of confidence is the usage of specially designed Dukes balls during the West Indies series.
The West Indies board has decided to use a variant of the Dukes balls – which are used in England – for the home series as it helps fast bowlers in all conditions and provides movement in their air and off the pitch consistently.
The Englishmen have altered their gameplan after considering the amount of assistance the quicker men are expected to get in the series which begins in Barbados in Wednesday.
Pace spearhead James Anderson is looking forward to bowling with the special Dukes balls after being rendered ineffective during the Sri Lanka Test series.
“The Dukes ball has been moving around a bit and swung for quite a considerable amount of time throughout the warm-up game, so that’s encouragement,” Anderson said. “At least there’s a glimmer of hope for us seam bowlers. We’re hoping for a little bit – just a little bit – through the air and it keeps you interested in the game.
“It feels you can make an impact in the game. The minute you come out here and there’s that extra encouragement, it just makes you excited to bowl and look forward to playing, so hopefully that’s going to stay with us for the rest of the trip.”
England’s pace attack for the first Test is likely to be Anderson, Stuart Broad and Ben Stokes with left-arm seamer Sam Curran providing support as the fourth seamer.
Interestingly, Curran has emerged as potentially the most important member of the attack after extracting the maximum movement on a consistent basis during the warm-up match.
James Anderson knows how much it means to the West Indies to beat England having seen their passion for the contest at close quarters.
While Caribbean cricket has declined sharply in the Test arena since the early 1990s – the side who were undisputed world leaders for almost two decades now sit eighth in the International Cricket Council’s rankings – its best has often been reserved for England tours.
The Windies rolled the visitors over inside three days on their last trip to Bridgetown four years ago, sealing a 1-1 draw, and edged the 2009 series after blowing Andrew Strauss’ side away for 51 in the opening Test at Sabina Park.
Even England’s 3-1 success in 2004 – their only series win on the islands since 1968 – is best remembered for Brian Lara’s world record 400 not out in Antigua.
The first Test in Barbados which starts on Wednesday will be Anderson’s 18th against the West Indies and eighth away from home, and he has seen their hunger first hand.
“Whenever we come here you get the feeling that West Indies really want to beat England,” he said.
“You can see it in the players’ eyes when you play against them and that means we’ve got to be on top form to be able to try and challenge them. It’s something that’s been ingrained in them, especially in the past when England have suffered heavy defeats.”
It is not hard to imagine why besting the English might have particular appeal and not merely because of the stains of colonialism. Tony Greig’s controversial “make them grovel” outburst in 1976 is still well remembered, while the suggestion of England and Wales Cricket Board chairman Colin Graves in 2015 that the hosts were “mediocre” opponents was a major talking point in the home dressing room.
The current England side are considerably less prone to antagonism and Anderson is prepared for a hard fought but enjoyable campaign enjoyed by several thousand travelling fans.
“Every time you come here it’s an amazing place to tour, there is so much history in the grounds, certainly here in Barbados, and the following we get is amazing,” he said.
“We are very lucky to get the travelling support we do, which makes it even better, so everyone is really excited to get going.
“Man for man we’ve got to outplay them. We know we’ve got the talent to do it but we’ve got to adapt to the conditions when necessary.”
Anderson became England’s leading Test wicket-taker in the series opener in Antigua four years ago, overtaking Sir Ian Botham in the process, and is ready to reclaim centre stage after admitting feeling “like a spare part” in Sri Lanka.
Spin dominated that series but a specially formulated Dukes ball has proved receptive to swing during practice and gained approving nods from the seam attack.
“I think the bowlers have really enjoyed their first week here, the ball has been moving around a bit and swung for quite a considerable amount of time throughout the games,” Anderson explained.
“The minute you come out here and there’s that extra encouragement, it just makes you excited to bowl and really look forward to playing, so hopefully that’s going to stay with us for the rest of the trip.”
Provided by Press Association
Trevor Bayliss cannot imagine anything bigger for English cricket than a World Cup and Ashes double this summer and is confident everything is in place to make the dream a reality.
England’s first competitive fixture of 2019 sees them take on the West Indies from Wednesday in Barbados, the first of three Test matches which kick off a potentially transformative year for the sport.
The game’s most prestigious one-day tournament and its oldest rivalry are being held on home soil this year, with England looking well placed to succeed in both.
For Bayliss it represents a tantalising prospect as well as a final chapter – the Australian will walk away at the end of his current contract in September – and the magnitude of the opportunity has not escaped him.
“It probably doesn’t get any bigger,” he said.
“It’s hard to pick between them. There’s nothing like beating Australia in the Ashes, like we did in 2015, so hopefully we walk away with both trophies.
“Being in the space of six months and at home, that brings pressure in itself and that’s what we have been working towards, playing under some pressure.
“The expectation you have yourself, that’s the pressure – yes we have pressure because our expectation is to play good cricket and have a good chance of winning.
“When we get to the big stage it is out of our hands (as coaches), it’s down to the guys to perform on the day. I don’t think we could have done too much more.”
Bayliss could go down as the last England coach asked to mastermind one-day and Test match triumphs, with new director of cricket Ashley Giles open to splitting the roles in future.
Giles was part of a similar job share with Andy Flower several years ago and has been encouraged to revisit the experiment given the exhaustive nature of the England calendar.
Bayliss added: “It’s very difficult. I said to Ashley the other day, if they go with one then it might be that they need two or three assistants underneath, that they take some more series as the head coach gets a break and gives experience to two or three home-grown coaches.”
More immediately, England need to settle on the make-up of their side in Barbados. Their most recent Test series, a 3-0 whitewash of Sri Lanka, was heavily dependent on a three-strong spin attack but it may be that just one of those, Moeen Ali, takes the field at the Kensington Oval.