With a World Cup and an Ashes – both on home soil – 2019 is massive for English cricket.
England properly kick off their year with a tour of the West Indies. Nice work if you can get it.
Three Tests will be followed by five ODIs and a trio of T20s over the next 10 weeks.
The Windies aren’t the Test force they used to be, but they remain a side capable of producing pieces of magic – especially on their own turf.
It all gets underway with the first Test in Bridgetown’s famed Kensington Oval. Here’s how it’s shaping up…
The Windies are only eighth in the ICC’s Test rankings, just above Bangladesh. The halcyon days of Brian Lara now belong to a bygone age.
England are ranked third, and impressed in their 3-0 Series win over Sri Lanka and last summer’s 4-1 trouncing of India. So it’s no surprise Joe Root’s side are 1/5 favourites to bag the Series in the Caribbean.
First Test odds
The tourists have only won one of their last four Tests at the Oval, but the current gulf in class should ensure they prevail at 1/3 for this opening encounter.
Root is 11/4 favourite to hit the most 1st innings runs for England, just ahead of Jonny Bairstow at 4/1. The Yorkshire ace hit a fine 110 in England’s last Test versus Sri Lanka in November.
Jos Buttler is a man in form too after big scores against India and Sri Lanka. The 28-year-old is 7/1 to be England’s top 1st innings runscorer.
Kraigg Braithwate and Shai Hope head the betting for the hosts at 7/2 apiece.
The key men
Skipper Root has already made clear that he isn’t bothered who grabs England’s runs, as long as the runs come.
Handily, Root has a plethora of boundary-smashing hitters at his disposal. In recent years, England have developed a trend where the bulk of their runs – often the match-changing ones – come lower down the order than in the days of Alistair Cook and Andrew Strauss.
That pattern is set to continue this year, so it’s crucial for the likes of Bairstow, Buttler and Stokes to begin the year on top.
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All Odds and Markets are correct as of the date of publishing