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Cricket news - Bowlers brace for Bridgetown encore
It's hardly surprising that after a match where 724 runs were scored in a little under 100 overs, the bowling line-ups of both Windies and England will be scrutinised for their effectiveness. For a modern-day ODI bowler that is an occupational hazard but the first game of the five-match series in Barbados on Wednesday (February 20) was a largely chastening affair for the bowlers on both sides. And things are not about to get any easier during the second game on Friday, also at Kensington Oval, when a similarly good pitch for batting is expected and a downturn of batting aggression unlikely.
England's victory in the first match was achieved with such ease, chasing down 360 to win without breaking a sweat, that it is the West Indian bowlers who will be feeling the heat more than anyone in the lead-up. On Wednesday, their attack looked one-dimensional, one-paced and without much of a discernible cutting edge at all. Even Oshane Thomas, the Jamaican quick, was made to look pedestrian. And Windies need to find a cutting edge because containment simply does not work against this England team. Wickets are the only way to stop them. But where are Windies going to find those wickets from?
Their toothlessness with the ball in the first match was not a one-off. Over the past two years, Windies have taken their wickets at a greater average than any other ODI team, conceded the third-most runs per over and have the worst strike rate, 49.1, too. In the same period, England have played 42 ODIs to Windies' 41, yet Eoin Morgan's men have taken 84 more wickets. With those sort of figures, it is little wonder Jason Holder's men have won just 11 matches in those two years.
Solving the problem won't be easy. Kemar Roach is injured and Shannon Gabriel is banned and while Devendra Bishoo may be the best wrist-spinner in the Caribbean, his recent record in ODI cricket is awful. At the very least, they could throw in Sheldon Cottrell's left-arm option to add some variety and the fielders could help their bowlers out by improving on an awful fielding display which CricViz suggested cost Windies 50 runs in the first match. Even then, it's doubtful England's batsmen will be kept up at night worrying about this Windies bowling attack.
England's bowlers won't be sleeping so soundly, though after receiving their own hammering in the first match, particularly Liam Plunkett who conceded 54 runs from his six overs. For all their batting brilliance, England's bowling attack can still have the odd off day and Chris Gayle and co put them to the sword at times in the first game, hitting 23 sixes in all, 12 from the bat of Gayle. Some of that may be down to rustiness - Plunkett and Chris Woakes have not played much of late - but the batsmen won't always be able to bail the bowlers out by chasing such large scores. An improvement from the bowling attack on Friday would be very welcome indeed.
When: Friday 22nd February, 2019. 11:00am Local Time
Where: Kensington Oval, Bridgetown, Barbados
What to expect: The second match of this series will be played on a fresh surface from the one on which the first game was played which removes much possibility of the bowlers coming into things. Instead, the new pitch is expected to be similarly good for batting again which will not please the bowlers on either side. A cooling breeze should blow for most of the day to keep players and spectators comfortable.
The home side could bring in Cottrell, who did well in their last series in Bangladesh, for Carlos Brathwaite, who went wicket-less in the first ODI, to pose England's batsmen a different question with a left-arm angle. Windies could also include Alzarri Joseph to add more spice to their attack, perhaps in place of Ashley Nurse, a containing rather than attacking off-spinner whose fielding was comical at times in the first match.
The visitors could opt to bring in David Willey as a left-arm option or Tom Curran for his ability at the start or end of an innings but Morgan's philosophy since the last World Cup has been to keep selection consistent where possible, so it would be no surprise for England to be unchanged on Friday. The batting order will certainly not be messed with which means Alex Hales, a player who would walk into most other teams around the world, misses out again.
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