Thereís nothing quite like the first home test of the Summer. Leather on willow, cream teas, cucumber sandwiches and of course a healthy downpouring of rain. Itís also nicely timed at the end of the Premier league season and reminds us that thereís still plenty of sport coming this summer.
England havenít had the most stirring starts to the year, winning only one of their five Tests in 2012. But lets be positive and use the old adage that youíre only as good as your last match in which case England are awesome having dispatched Sri Lanka by eight wickets at the beginning of April.
A lot has happened since then though, for starters the West Indies team has been boosted by the return of Chris Gayle. Heís a big hitting legend and great to watch in any form of the game, unfortunately due to other commitments heís only going to be playing in the one dayers. Whether his inclusion in the touring squad will encourage the rest of the team remains to be seen, but with a couple of players looking over their shoulders we can but hope to see a harder hitting Windies from Thursday.
From a batting point of view the West Indies already have the best in the world in the form of Chanderpaul, a man that England have a history of failure against, seemingly unmoveable from the crease in back to back Tests. England of course have their own rocks in Trott and Cook and as always will back themselves to put on healthy runs with the bat and take the 20 wickets needed to win Tests. Preparations for the tests have been hampered by the weather, but where there has been play thereís not been too many notable showings. The England Lions (including Bairstow whoís due to debut) bowled them out for 147 before putting 341 on themselves. The Windies rallied in their second innings to add 390, but the target was knocked off with no loss of wicket to give the Lions a welcome and confidence building/shaking victory.
In terms of betting, thereís no surprise that England are favourites at 1.17 with BetFair so little value there. Top scorers and wicket takers it is then and we canít see past England in either regard. Trott has a healthy 50+ average, rarely throws away a wicket and is guaranteed to play if fit. The 4s you can get at BetVictor isnít the best out there, but theyíll refund losing top scorer bets if one of the captains ends up being the top scorer so it could be the best value overall. For the bowling itís Anderson at a generous 3.5 with Ladbrokes for us, although Roach is worth a look at 3.75 with Boylesports.
Now thatís the chat and betting out of the way, time for a couple of YouTube beauties. He may not have travelled so well in later test matches, but back in the day Harmison was a monster. Click HERE for a clip of his scarcely believable 7 for 12 from 2004. England donít have it all their own way against the Windies though, lest we forget they bowled us out for 51 in 2009. Click HERE to see it, at 9 minutes itís pretty much a unedited...........maybe we should rethink our tips, if you can find someone offering first innings score of less than 100 then take it.