England v West Indies
Thursday March 17, 1:00am
Mumbai’s Wankhede Stadium will be the venue for England’s clash with the West Indies on Wednesday night.
England come into the tournament with arguably their best chance of claiming the trophy since their victory in 2010. No side in the competition boasts a longer batting order with David Willey – who opens in domestic cricket – coming in all the way down at number ten.
However England suffered a severe blow on the eve of the tournament with the withdrawal of Steven Finn, placing even more pressure on leg-spinner Adil Rashid who looms as the key figure in their campaign. Also under pressure is all-rounder Ben Stokes who hasn’t got past single figures in six of his past eight T20I innings.
England’s recent form has been mixed, failing to win their last three T20Is after winning the five matches prior.
Despite losing Kieron Pollard, Sunil Narine, Darren Bravo and Lendl Simmons, the Windies still boast a talented squad that is purpose-built for T20 cricket. The likes of Chris Gayle, Dwayne Bravo, Andre Russell and Samuel Badree rarely play any other forms of the game these days and they shape the nucleus of a highly-accomplished, if volatile, line-up.
Much may depend on how the wildcards within the Windies set-up – such as Marlon Samuels, Johnson Charles and Carlos Brathwaite – rise to the challenge, but each is capable of changing the course of a match on their day.
One possible issue for the Windies is the lack of cricket they’ve played together with only two fully-fledged T20Is in the past year, however that has been somewhat circumvented by a number of warm-up games which have produced mainly positive results.
The Wankhede Stadium has hosted only one T20I with England chasing down India’s 8/177 back in 2012. In last year’s IPL the Wankhede was notably high-scoring with an average first innings score of 5/181, while the side batting first won six out of eight games.
- England have won only four of their last ten T20Is in Asia.
- England have won only won one of their past nine T20Is when batting second.
- West Indies have played only two T20Is since January 2015, splitting a two-game series away to Sri Lanka in November.
- In last year’s IPL the side batting first won six out of eight matches at Wankhede Stadium.
- In last year’s IPL six out eight first innings scores at Wankhede Stadium exceeded 170.
Punters have made England slight favourites with the Windies marked as outsiders to claim an opening victory.
While the Calypso Kings would’ve hoped for a more thorough and settled preparation, there’s no doubt they possess the firepower to overcome England who have only once won their opening fixture in this tournament.
England’s sub-par record in Asia is also a concern and while both sides are stacked with all-rounders, the Windies’ brigade of Bravo, Russell, Braithwaite and Sammy have more pedigree in this format than England’s Stokes, Ali, Jordan and Willey.
Therefore I’ll be backing the Windies to cause a minor upset and will have a particular interest if they bat first given the favourable record at the ground and England’s poor recent record chasing.