West Indies v India, 1st Test – Sir Vivian Richards Stadium from 15:00
A four match Test series between West Indies and India begins in Antigua on Thursday as Virat Kholi’s men start a stretch of red ball cricket that will see them play twelve Tests in the next five months. This is the first time India have played a Test since December last year, where they swept aside South Africa 3-0 at home on matches played out on what can only be described as home-friendly. Jason Holder’s West Indian outfit make their first Test appearance since January, where bad weather helped them draw the Sydney Test having been on a run of six straight defeats. West Indies have lost seven of their last nine Test series.
Sunshine is forecast throughout with no real threat of prolonged rain. Any tropical showers to arrive in Antigua should pass through quickly. Temperatures will be over 32c and humidity is high.
The Sir Viv Richards Stadium, or North Sound as it’s also known, has only hosted four Test matches. One of these matches back in 2009 was abandoned after just ten balls after the bowlers run-ups were found to dangerous due to the high sand content of the outfield – this writer was unfortunate to be present on that day and was forced to spend the rest of the day in a St John’s public house drinking wadadli beer and rum punches – anyway, I digress.
Here are the scores made in sides first innings of the match in Tests played on this ground plus in bold, the winner of the Test in question-
2015 – 1st inns – 399 (ENG) 2nd inns – 295 (WI) – DRAW
2012 – 1st inns – 351 (NZ) 2nd inns – 522 (WI) – WI
2008 – 1st inns – 479/7d (AUS) 2nd inns – 352 (WI) – DRAW
Batting in the 1st innings of the match – Average 409
Batting in the 2nd innings of the match – Average 389
NOTE – (we’ve ignored 3rd and 4th match innings for the purposes of this column which has been written for each sides 1st innings performance)
Form Guide & First Inns Runs
West Indies have played 10 Tests since April 2015 . Here are their 1st innings scores plus result in brackets –
330(D) 271(L) 223(L) 163(L) 251(L) 220(L) 148(L) 189(W) 299(L) 295(D) – Average 239
India have played 8 Tests since June 2015. One match at Bangalore was so severely hit by rain, India were only 80/0 in their 1st innings. We won’t include that in the overall average. Here are their 1st innings scores plus result in brackets –
334(W) 215(W) 80/0(D) 201(W) 312(W) 393(W) 375(L) 462/6d(W) – Average 327
West Indies have left out long standing wicket keeper Denish Ramdin – Shane Dowrich comes in for his 3rd Test and first since June last year – whilst other notable admissions include experienced fast men Kemar Roach and Jerome Taylor. There is a recall for top order bat Leon Johnson who averages 57 for Guyana in first-class cricket this year, whilst Bajan batsman Roston Chase should debut having scored 710 runs for Barbados in red ball cricket. Darren Bravo and Marlon Samuels showed fine form in the recent ODI tri-series whilst Jermaine Blackwood adds some stability to the middle order having passed fifty on seven occasions in 27 Test innings. Skipper Holder will bowl his medium-quick seam alongside T20 final hero Carlos Brathwaite and exciting fast bowler Shannon Gabriel. The Trini quick might only have 34 wickets in 16 Tests, but has the ability to shake up a batting line-up. Expect lots of overs for leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo who has career best figures of 6/80 against Australia.
India played their trio of spinners in the weekends warm-up match – R Ashiwn, Ravi Jadeja and Amit Mishra – and could go in with the same tactic on what is expected to be a slow, dry surface. Virat Kohli leads India from the front and a career average of 44 in Tests will surely only climb over the coming years. Murali Vijay or KL Rahul will open alongside Shikar Dhawan whilst Chet Pujara adds a touch of old-school class to the middle order. Pujara has 7 Test hundreds at an average of over 47 and is capable of grinding out those big, match-winning totals. ODI and T20 batting king Rohit Sharma still hasn’t mastered the longest form – averaging just 33 in 29 innings – expect him to bat six here behind Rahane (below) The tourists have bought five seamers yet could only go in with just two. Expect Ishant Shamra and Umesh Yadav to get the nod ahead of Mohammed Shami, Bhuv Kumar and Stuart Binny if they do go with a spin heavy attack.
Ones To Watch
Kraigg Brathwaite played his fourth, fifth and sixth career Tests on tour in India back in 2011. In six innings he averaged 32.4, but more eye catching was the fact he battled it out for 598 balls in the series. Fast forward and Brathwaite will be playing his 28th Test in Antigua and is a much needed mainstay of an ever changing West Indies Test XI.
Ajinkya Rahane is one of India‘s new guard that seems to have been around forever. In 22 Tests he has amassed 6 centuries and 7 fifties at an average of nearly 45. In the low-scoring series win against South Africa he clubbed together 266 runs in 6 knocks whilst his record overseas is outstanding, scoring hundreds in New Zealand, England, Australia and Sri Lanka.
If West Indies bat first, I recommend backing any UNDER RUNS around the 290-293 mark.
If India bat first, I recommend backing any OVER RUNS around the 330-333 mark.
Top Batsman Market
There’s no huge reliability in West Indies top order so lets look for middle order man Jermaine Blackwood to top score in their first digs at 8.0.
I’m expecting Virat Kohli to score heavily on this tour and suggest 3.75 is a decent bet for him to top score in India‘s first innings.
Prices correct at time of writing.
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