England and West Indies begin their T20 series on Tuesday. It’s been a fascinating tour so far, seeing a surprise Test series win for the hosts and a thrilling 2-2 draw in the ODIs.
England are resting three key players for the shortest format of the sport. With the IPL coming up and the World Cup creeping onto the horizon, Jos Buttler, Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali will sit out these three matches, giving them a short break after a long winter.
Jason Roy is also missing for the tourists, as he is returning to the UK for the birth of his child. Dawid Malan and Sam Billings are named in the squad for the first time since last winter’s tour of New Zealand and Australia.
Chris Gayle is set to be the star of the series once more and is a great bet to be the top run scorer in 888sport’s cricket betting markets.
Gayle is due to retire from international cricket after this summer’s World Cup (which Windies are 14/1 outsiders to win) but has recently expressed doubts about his decision. We saw the very best of Gayle in the ODI series, topped off by a destructive 77 off 27 balls in the fifth match.
For all the drama surrounding Windies cricket in recent years, they are World T20 champions. They have slipped to seventh in the rankings, but their team is littered with dangerous players.
Andre Russell should feature in this series and England are familiar with what Carlos Brathwaite can do.
Brathwaite crushed four sixes off the last over to beat England in the final and is a threat down the order in this series as well. He bowled superbly in the fifth ODI, but the all-rounder is not great value to be the series’ top bowler.
Adil Rashid is the standout name in the bowling market for England. Rashid is ranked the fifth-best T20I bowler in the world and led the way with nine wickets at an average a smidgen over 20 in the ODI series.
Even when he’s going for runs, Rashid’s variation makes him a constant wicket-taking threat. He’s a name to consider in the top bowler market, though his price might be on the short side.
Chris Jordan is another name to consider. The white-ball specialist didn’t have the best time in the Big Bash, but he’s got a bag of tricks, making him a challenging guy to face in the final overs.
His combination of slower balls and Yorkers upsets the timing of batsmen. Wickets are likely as Windies look to accelerate at the death.
Openers are usually the safe bets for top batsmen in 20-over cricket. In England’s case, though, the in-form Eoin Morgan might be the best option.
Morgan was in the shadow of Buttler as England smashed their way to 400 in the fourth ODI, but his century was just as superb, if not quite as destructive as Buttler’s knock.
He arrested an early collapse in the second ODI with an excellent 70 and accelerated the innings with 65 in the first match. When he’s keeping it simple at the crease and timing the ball well, Morgan is still one of the best middle order batsmen in the world.
If there’s a concern Morgan will not get enough time in the middle to be a good top batsman bet, Alex Hales is a good alternative.
Hales is capable of the extraordinary. One innings could tip the balance in this market in such a short series. He finished the Bangladesh Premier League in fine form and started off England’s monster innings in the fourth ODI with a flowing 82.
It’s hard to bet against Windies with Gayle playing like this. The grounds are not big enough for him, and England – like pretty much everyone he’s faced in his career – have not found a way to stop him.
England still have a solid team, but the absences of Roy, Buttler, Moeen and Stokes tip the scales in the hosts’ favour.
*Odds subject to change - correct at time of writing*