England go into their first Test series of 2009 with a new captain, no permanent coach, and a significant chunk of the batting order likely to have one eye on the IPL auction during the First Test. Despite all this, they’ll be widely expected to pull off a comfortable series win as they continue their battle with Australia to see who can be worst prepared for the Ashes this summer.
In case any of the players not included in the IPL auction feel there’s insufficient time for them on camera, they need fear not – this series will be England’s first encounter with the TV referral system that many other teams have used already. Ian Bell may want to make use of it while he can, as a poor performance in the First Test may see him relieved of Test duties for a time, especially if Owais Shah can seize the opportunity.
For the hosts, expectations have been steadily building, and the quality of Gayle, Sarwan and of course Chanderpaul is enough to win them at least one Test if all find form at the same time, although the team often collapses if they don’t. The Windies bowling attack, once so feared, is potentially a weakness if it reverts to mediocrity once the new ball shine has worn off. Recent unlikely batting hero Jerome Taylor could be key, given his ability to swing the ball both ways.