Cricket ODI: England v West Indies

England bowling threat makes them favourites

England's wicket-taking ability can undermine a powerful West Indies batting line-up

England bowling threat makes them favourites

Many people make West Indies favourites to win the three-match ODI series, but this judgment seems to be based solely on the depth and power of their batting and disregards the considerable superiority of England’s bowling.

Of course, the return of Chris Gayle gives the visitors a batsman whose explosive power outguns anyone in the England side now that Kevin Pietersen has departed. The addition of the big-hitting Kieron Pollard, the experienced and versatile allrounder Dwayne Bravo and the mercurial Dwayne Smith also beef up the West Indies batting.

But England must surely be favourites on home soil because of the vast superiority of their bowling attack. We can debate who has the most powerful batting line-up, but there is simply no room for argument when it comes to bowling.

England recently beat Pakistan 4-0 in the UAE in an ODI series and, even allowing for the fact that Pakistan took their foot off the pedal following their emphatic win in the Test series, it was an impressive performance by England whose bowlers gelled as a unit.

In that most recent series, Finn showed more control than a couple of years ago, to go with an extra two yards of pace. He took 13 Pakistan wickets at 10 apiece and his economy rate of 3.35 per over made him England’s most parsimonious bowler.

Broad and Anderson will clearly be a real threat in the forecast cloudy conditions against a batting line-up which is full of strokeplayers, but brittle in terms of technique against the moving ball.

Dwayne Smith is a perfect example of a dangerously talented West Indian batsman who could be found out by England’s swing bowlers. Swann, too, is one of the world’s best spin bowlers in ODIs, much as he hates playing in them. And Dernbach has found a niche as England’s expert death bowler.

Meanwhile, West Indies’ bowling line-up is lacking easily its best exponent of pace bowling, Kemar Roach, who is still injured. His replacement, Tino Best, could prove expensive. England will have to fathom the wiles of Narine, and Rampaul is a fine swing bowler, but the overall threat of West Indies’ bowling attack is palpably less menacing than England’s.

England’s batting is diminished by the absence of Pietersen who in his last ODI, against Pakistan, made a match-winning hundred. It is sad that we cannot savour his extraordinary talents.

But England captain Alastair Cook has surprised many people, including Michael Atherton, by emerging as a consistent and aggressive ODI batsman. Since taking over as captain last year, he has made three hundreds in 22 games and averaged 53.95. His previous 23 ODIs brought him 702 sluggish runs at an average of 30. Even more impressively, he has been scoring at nearly a run a ball in the last year.

Gayle may well be the best one-day batsman in either side, but odd as it may seem, Cook is now the second best. The likes of Morgan, Kieswetter, Bopara and Bairstow provide ome  flair in the middle-order, while Trott and Bell offer some sticking power at the top, to complement Cook’s aggression.

West Indies are dangerous because of the depth of their batting and a bevy of one-day specialists, and most of all because they are hell-bent on revenge for their Test defeat.

But the superior techniques of England’s batsmen, allied to the greater threat of England’s bowlers, makes them slight favourites. West Indies may be just a little over-reliant on Gayle.