Test cricket is back this week as England return to action for 2019 in the West Indies.
This is England’s first Test series in the Caribbean since 2015, where they drew a three-match series 1-1 with the West Indies.
2019 sees captain Joe Root lead a new-look Test side into a crucial year.
England will play Australia in the Ashes this summer and the Windies tour is a vital part of that preparation.
The first Test gets underway on January 23 at the Kensington Oval in Barbados — and here are some top tips to bet on cricket during the action.
As England’s last tour of West Indies proved, they are not guaranteed a series win here. England drew that series 1-1, losing the last test at the Kensington Oval in Barbados — this week’s venue — by five wickets.
Yes, this England side is much changed since then. But they have proved to be a disappointing touring unit lately.
They were nearly whitewashed in the 2017/18 Ashes and then lost the two-Test series to New Zealand this time last year. Yes, England beat India at home last summer but the Indians were never going to win that series.
A price that high is there to entice punters and it’s worth considering.
Indeed, the Windies themselves are in high spirits heading into this series. And England are not. As Jimmy Anderson said three days before the first ball, a lack of warm-up games could cost England dear.
He is ranked as the 10th best Test bowler playing today. Holder enjoyed an excellent 2018. He took 16 wickets in the two-match series with Bangladesh and also managed nine on the last Test against Sri Lanka in Bridgetown back in June.
Holder has become a mainstay in this Windies pace attack. His 28.5 average as strong compared to his team-mates and England should fear the 27-year-old.
Indeed, Holder also has past experience bowling against England too, having impressed the last time the English rocked up on these shores. Back in 2015, in only his third Test series, Holder managed three wickets on his debut to help earn the Windies a draw.
And in the final match of that series, his five wickets included taking out Garry Balance and Joe Root.
Holder is 7/2 with 10Bet to be the top bowler from the Windies in the first Test.
Joe Root is the obvious contender here. RedBet, one of the best new bookmakers around, have captain Root at 6/1 to be the top batsman in the first innings. But there are better odds out there to chase.
It’s worth looking back at England’s last tour. England lost last spring’s two-match series with New Zealand 1-0, coming off the back of an Ashes humbling. And it was a disastrous series for the batsmen.
Jonny Bairstow was the only real shining light, managing a century in the second Test. He is 7/1 to top score in the first innings this week and that’s a decent shout.
Sadly, England’s performance in New Zealand highlighted their weak top order. Having Craig Overton and Ben Stokes top scoring in your first Test is not a good sign of progress.
The West Indies welcome back Darren Bravo for this series and they certainly need him. A 40-run average over 49 Tests makes him the best batsman - statistically - in the Windies order.
That’s why Ladbrokes having Bravo at 9/2 to be the Windies’ top runscorer in the first innings is a great price.
Bravo may be used to the short-form game but he has the experience to knuckle down at the crease. Expect a big performance from Bravo. After all, he was instrumental in the series draw with England four years ago.
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