OPINION: England Face West Indies

England arrive in the Caribbean this weekend for a 5-match ODI series against the West Indies, beginning on October 8th at Trelawny Stadium in Jamaica.

The last 3 games are the “Championship” matches – the ones which count towards qualification for next summer’s World Cup – and if England win all 3, they will seal qualification for 2017*, regardless of how things go in their final matches versus Sri Lanka, who look like a walking 6 points right now, having just been ground to mincemeat by Australia.

England have a squad of 15, and looking at a possible starting XI, most of the options would appear to be amongst the bowlers:

  1. Winfield
  2. Beaumont
  3. Elwiss/ Wyatt
  4. Sciver
  5. Knight
  6. Jones
  7. Brunt
  8. Shrubsole
  9. Marsh/ Hazell
  10. Gunn/ Langston
  11. Hartley/ Ecclestone

At the top of the order, Winfield and Beaumont are the first on the team-sheet after their golden summer; but both still have something to prove – making runs against Pakistan at home is one thing, but they still need to show they can do it against the top teams in less friendly conditions; and if they fail, the same old questions will be back again, make no mistake.

Elwiss came in at first-drop in all the Pakistan ODIs this summer, so you’d imagine she will do the same in the first ODI here; but coach Mark Robinson might then use the 2nd ODI to give Wyatt an opportunity higher up the order, especially after having seen her make a patient century on the last day of the County Championship season for Sussex against Surrey.

With Knight having decided that she feels more comfortable generally coming in a bit further down, Nat Sciver will be up next – she was obviously explosive against Pakistan, and she had a good Super League too; but having treated even the ODIs this summer as T20-style “boshes”, she needs to show she can change her game up a bit when required in the ODI format against tougher opponents.

Moving into the bowling, barring injury, both Brunt and Shrubsole are of course automatic selections; and England will be really hoping that injuries don’t rear-up early on, because Beth Langston won’t be available until the “second half” of the tour, as she completes her rehabilitation from a broken finger.

Finally turning to the spinners, under Mark Robinson it looks like England want to try to take the field with a left-right-arm combination available, so the lefties – Alex Hartley and Sophie Ecclestone – will probably interchange throughout the series, unless one of them does something spectacular (either spectacularly good or to be fair, spectacularly bad) to change that.

The right-armers present more of a dilemma perhaps – Robinson has clearly become an effusive fan of Laura Marsh, since her surprise recall flying into the World T20 after Dani Hazell got injured; and Marsh played all the ODIs against Pakistan at Hazell’s expense, with Hazell only coming back for the T20s. But there are no T20s here, and Robinson will be reluctant to leave Hazell totally out in the cold, not least because he’ll need her if injury-prone Marsh has any recurrence of her on-going shoulder problems.

One thing is certain – the West Indies won’t roll-over like Pakistan did. These will be tough, hard-fought matches against the World T20 Champions, who currently sit in 2nd place in the Women’s International Championship – just above England in 3rd. England could play really well and still lose the series and a final 2-3 scoreline would be no surprise.

The only scenario England have to be very careful of is losing all 3 Championship matches, which would mean they really couldn’t afford to slip-up against Sri Lanka – the pressure would be on then; but that is a bridge they’d have to cross if and when they came to it.

In the meantime, our job as fans is to sit back and hopefully enjoy some fantastic cricket, and with live-streams promised by the West Indies Cricket Board of all 5 games, we are looking forward to doing just that!

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* The table isn’t as close as it looks because West Indies and India, and South Africa and New Zealand, have yet to play each other, so one of each have to drop points and won’t therefore be able to catch England.

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