The Kensington Oval will be the scene of the first match of the three-Test series between the Windies and England, as both sides begin their first Test assignments of 2019.
Windies vs England
Kensington Oval, Bridgetown
Wednesday, 23 January, 10:00am local time, 14:00am GMT
The home side arrive into this series on the back of two Test defeats in Bangladesh, a 64-run defeat in Chattogram followed by a crushing innings defeat in Dhaka. Nevertheless, they will be boosted by the return of captain Jason Holder, who enjoyed a sensational 2018. The hulking all-rounder led from the front across the year, averaging 37.33 with the bat and just 12.39 with the ball, as he collected 33 wickets from just six Test appearances, before a shoulder injury brought his year to a premature end.
Eyes will also be focussed on the recall of Darren Bravo after more than two years in the wilderness. With 49 Test caps to his name, alongside eight hundreds at an average of exactly 40, Bravo is a welcome addition to a batting line-up that was all at sea in Bangladesh.
Bravo is just one of a number of additions to the Windies squad, with young tearaway Alzarri Joseph back in the reckoning having recovered from a stress fracture that eliminated his presence in the side over the course of 2018. The Bridgetown crowd may also witness two new Test debutants, with Jamaica’s John Campbell, and Barbados’ Shamarh Brooks in the Windies squad.
"He has become one of the standout all-rounders in international cricket" – @windiescricket coach Pybus hails the growth of captain @Jaseholder98 as a player and leader.— ICC (@ICC) January 22, 2019
The visitors will begin the first Test looking to build on a sparkling run of form. A 4-1 series win at home against India last summer was followed by a historic 3-0 whitewash against Sri Lanka, their first series win in Asia since 2012.
With dominant performances across their three Tests in the subcontinent, plenty of names in England’s squad merit a place in the playing XI. Nevertheless, there are bound to be a few changes from the line-up that emerged victorious in the final Test in Colombo, with three spinners unlikely to be required in Bridgetown. With a luxury of bowling options at their disposal, England will be able to mix and match their line-up depending on the conditions on offer across the series.
A batting line-up that will most likely see either Ben Foakes or Moeen Ali at No. 8 highlights the strength in depth currently on offer on the batting front. They look well primed for a first Test series win in the Caribbean since 2004.
Shai Hope (Windies): The Windies’ tour of England in 2017 saw the emergence of Hope as a batting star. Twin hundreds at Headingley led his side to one of the most famous wins in their recent history and while his Test returns in Bangladesh were weak, consecutive hundreds in the ODI series re-confirmed what an audacious talent he is.
Jos Buttler (England): 2018 was the year Buttler truly emerged as a Test batsman. Recalled to the side on the back of an exceptional IPL, England’s ODI wicketkeeper delivered on his promise as a specialist batsman, finishing the year with 760 runs at an average of 44.70. Having just enjoyed an impressive spell in the Big Bash for Sydney Thunder, much will be expected of England’s vice-captain.
The first three days should see the sun shining in Bridgetown, but light showers are forecasted for Saturday, with some potential drizzle on the fifth day. Worries about any weekend rain may be premature however. Sri Lanka’s visit to the same ground last year was a low-scoring pace-dominated affair, with the home side bowled out for just 93 in their second innings.
Windies: Jason Holder (captain), Kraigg Brathwaite, Darren Bravo, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Shimron Hetmyer, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Jomel Warrican
Oshane Thomas is included as cover for Joseph.
England: Joe Root (c), Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jonny Bairstow, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Ben Foakes, Keaton Jennings, Jack Leach, Adil Rashid, Ben Stokes, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes
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