West Indies and England are two teams in transition and will do battle tomorrow in the first installment of a three Test series in Antigua.
First Test, Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, North Sound, Antigua, from 1400 GMT on 13th April 2015
England will hope to draw inspiration from James Anderson playing his 100th Test and being on the verge of overtaking Ian Botham as their leading wicket-taker of all time. He needs just four more wickets to go past the great man, but has today admitted on ESPNcricinfo that England's winter to date has been "awful". It is one that saw an early exit from the World Cup and has resulted in the sacking of managing director Paul Downton, questions over the futures of head coach Peter Moores and selector James Whitaker, and the re-invigoration of the Kevin Pietersen saga. The latter hit a blazing century in the idyllic surroundings of The Parks in Oxford today to add further fuel to that particular fire.
The hosts, meanwhile, are looking for a renaissance of their own. They have a new coach in Phil Simmons, who has been given the seemingly never ending task of helping the West Indies rediscover their glory days of the 1980s. He gained many plaudits during his time in charge of Ireland and comes with a mandate for change.
The two teams last met in England in 2012 when the hosts retained The Wisden Trophy that had been won in 2009. However, the last time that England travelled to the Caribbean for a Test series, the first Test in Jamaica was the scene of a humiliating defeat as they were bowled out for only 51 before going on to lose the series. That was Andrew Strauss' and Andy Flower's first Test in charge. The pair would go on to lead one of England's most successful eras of modern times, including winning the Ashes later that summer. With an Ashes series to follow later this summer also, current incumbents Peter Moores and Alastair Cook will be hoping for success in the latter without the embarrassment of the former. Incoming chairman Colin Graves has already said that he expects nothing less than a comfortable win over a West Indies team he has described as "mediocre".
Pitch and conditions:
The Sir Vivian Richards Stadium was the venue for the infamous 10-ball Test in that 2009 series. The game was abandoned in the second over after the bowlers' run-ups were deemed potentially dangerous due to the excessively sandy nature of the outfield. While there isn't expected to be such a problem on this occasion, the bowlers aren't exactly anticipating much assistance. The pitch is usually slow and low and may not even be particularly helpful to the spinners.
The weather forecast is for temperatures of up to 30 degrees Celsius throughout. After a sunny opening day, though, there will be an increasing chance of rain as the contest progresses.
England have given plenty of hints as to their eleven over the course of the two warm-up games played in St Kitts, despite the games, on occasion, threatening to descend into farce. Jonathan Trott is expected to open alongside Cook, while James Tredwell and Chris Jordan are expected to be preferred to Adil Rashid, Liam Plunkett and Mark Wood.
Probable XI: Alastair Cook (captain), Jonathan Trott, Gary Ballance, Ian Bell, Joe Root, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler (wicket-keeper), Chris Jordan, James Tredwell, Stuart Broad, James Anderson.
West Indies have announced a 14-man squad, with leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo and youngsters Shai Hope and Carlos Brathwaite the men most likely to miss out.
Possible XI: Kraigg Brathwaite, Devon Smith, Darren Bravo, Marlon Samuels, Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Jermaine Blackwood, Denesh Ramdin (captain, wicket-keeper), Jason Holder, Kemar Roach, Jerome Taylor, Sulieman Benn.