STAR PREVIEW: England v West Indies 2nd Test with RYAN SIDEBOTTOM

We’ve waited so long for cricket to come back, and were richly rewarded with a thrilling test match which went to the last day with both England and the West Indies still having big chances.

Looking back, the Windies looked technically better than us in the First Test. Their bowling put our batsmen under pressure – they have a very good bowling attack that can take 20 wickets – and I think they outperformed us with the ball, which is no mean feat in home conditions!!

A lot’s been said about the toss, but you can’t just look at the weather – you’ve got to play what’s in front of you – and I think batting first was the right choice. Ben Stokes (pictured) was probably a bit unlucky – we opted to bat, went well for 17 overs, and then the cloud cover came in. Credit to the West Indies, who bowled beautifully and used the conditions to their advantage.

Sometimes a captain has a gut feel and they’ll look at the pitch and make their decision taking many factors into account, including how they think it will play in terms of bounce and turn.

There’s been a lot of talk about Stuart Broad and I was very surprised that he wasn’t selected, given that he’s been England’s best bowler over the last 18 months along with Jimmy Anderson.

The First Test also showed that pace doesn’t always do the job. Jason Holder, who’s not express, bowled beautifully using line, length and a little bit of seam. The saliva not being on the ball also made an obvious difference but the Windies adapted well.

Old Trafford

Old Trafford as a pitch generally carries and has a good bounce, although spin plays a big part later on.

England are looking for a big comeback and their bowlers will need to bowl more consistently if they’re going to level the series. The Windies set a great example of how to play these conditions with bat and ball in the first test – they were very patient and their defensive technique was excellent.

England could take a leaf out of their book.

I fully expect England to come back stronger – they always seem to do well when they’re under pressure – but the Windies have already shown they’re not to be underestimated on this tour.

I can’t really call who’s going to win this game – I’ve said England 2-1 for the series (recommended at 9/2 with and think they’ll just prove too strong over the course of the series, although we can expect two more tight games on everything we’ve seen so far.

There are some top specials on and I particularly like the 11/2 on Ben Stokes to score a half century, take a catch and a wicket in the first innings. Ben Stokes may have taken stick for his call to bowl first, but he played brilliantly overall, top-scoring in the first innings with the bat and taking four wickets with the ball, and this special would have landed in the first test if he’d just made it to a half-century.

Some of the English batsmen didn’t get going in the First Test, but Zak Crawley really impressed with his second innings 76 and I fancy him to make a big impact if keeps his place here ahead of Joe Denly. He’ll be disappointed with the way he got out but he handled the Windies bowling better than any home batsman in either innings and a repeat effort would make 14/1 with in the Man Of The Match market look tempting.

Ollie Pope is just as talented and whilst he didn’t get a start at Southampton, I’m backing him to bounce back with a century in either innings at 6/1 with


I can see a number of areas where England could end up making changes. I was surprised to see Stuart Broad get dropped. I think Broad will come in for wither Wood or Archer, and given how Archer bowled in the second innings, it could be Wood who misses out. Whether Foakes will come in for Buttler I don’t know, but I can see Joe Denly making way with Zak Crawley moving upto 3.

I think the Windies will be unchanged, assuming that John Campbell’s OK after his knock.

RECOMMENDED BETS (scale of 1-100 points)
BACK Ben Stokes to score 50+ runs, take a Catch & a Wicket (1st Innings only) 1 pt at 11/2 with
BACK Zak Crawley Man of the Match 1 pt at 14/1 with
BACK Ollie Pope to score a century in either innings 1 pt at 6/1 with

PROFIT/LOSS SINCE JAN 1 2017: PROFIT 228.75 points
(Excluding Cheltenham 2021 antepost, Premier League ante-post, Six Nations Outright, Six Nations Specials, Cameron Brown Football Bets, Derby bet)