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Stuart Dalgleish 16th May 2012 - 16:25

Come rain or shine, England are still streets ahead

England v West Indies first Test preview - 11:00 live on Sky Sports 1

It's looking as though England (4/9) are once again going to have to battle the weather Gods as well as their opponents as they get their summer underway against the West Indies (8/1, draw 11/4) at Lord's.

The Three Lions will be a bit wounded after a very disappointing winter; they were abject against an ordinary Pakistan team then only marginally better against a steady Sri Lanka side.

Spin was their undoing on both tours, but they shouldn't have to worry too much about that back on the green, green grass of home.

The touring West Indies party have actually dropped arguably their best spinner Devendra Bishoo and replaced him with Shane Shillingford (3/1 top WI bowler), but Ottis Gibson is considering an all-out pace attack.

You can't blame him really, even Graeme Swann (11/4 top Eng bowler) can struggle for turn at this early stage of the summer, the conditions certainly favour the quicks and West Indies have a few to get concerned over.

Fidel Edwards (5/2) is a bowler I've admired for a while and he's enjoyed success in these parts previously having taken six wickets at the Home of Cricket in 2009, he will be leading the line with Kemar Roach (5/2).

Roach recently took a 10-wicket haul against the vastly improved Australians last month, and he will appreciate the anticipated cloudy conditions if England are put in on Thursday morning.

Ravi Rampaul (11/4) and Darren Sammy (4/1) will make up the attack for the West Indies, but Shillingford is likely to replace Rampaul if they decide against four fast bowlers.

Their attack should pose England questions; I don't think their top order will though.

Shiv Chanderpaul (11/4 top WI batsman) recently passed 10,000 Test runs and is still a top performer, however ungainly he looks at the crease, but he doesn't have a whole host of quality players to help him out.

Darren Bravo (7/2) will be the man they next hope to step up and score the runs, and he has been doing that of late with three centuries in his last seven Tests, including two against India away from home.

The board only have themselves to blame though for the lack of several players capable of posting big scores, Chris Gayle remains a huge loss but he might well be involved in the ODIs if he can reach a compromise, while Dwayne Bravo and Ramnaresh Sarwan both have fine Test averages but are not in their plans at the minute.

While these sort of players remain absent, results on the pitch are almost inevitable.

Such is the fall from grace of the Windies, they were considered gallant losers against Australia and India in their last two series, years back they would've expected to beat both these teams or at least fight for a draw.

I don't think there will be any 'unlucky losing' in this tour, I fully expect England to win not only this match but the series with little discomfort.

The reason why England are such strong favourites is that several players are now having to prove why they deserve to play for the best Test team in the world.

People are talking about Andrew Strauss (9/2 top Eng batsman) being dropped, well that won't happen anytime soon but he's still in need of a score (5/1 to score a century) so that people don't think he's being 'carried'.

Kevin Pietersen (7/2) and Ian Bell (11/2) both endured miserable winters, but then you know that when they're under pressure that can be when they thrive the most.

England's top order also play pace very well, so I'd expect big scores, Alastair Cook (7/2) is 11/8 to score a fifty, while Matt Prior (10/1) has performed superbly for the last couple of years and will be playing with his heir behind the stumps in Jonny Bairstow (8/1).

Andy Flower will have a decision to make in the bowling attack; realistically in this series they could afford to rest one of James Anderson (9/4) and Stuart Broad (11/4) as neither of them have anything to prove and they could be kept fresh for South Africa.

It might be too disrespectful to West Indies though if they left them out of the team, so it's that elusive third seamer position that will be up for grabs once again.

Tim Bresnan (3/1) is a lucky charm having won all of his 11 Test matches he's played so far in his career, he's probably in pole position at the minute, but Steven Finn (3/1) continues to impress in the short forms and Graham Onions (7/2) is now back in the mix, and the Durham man ripped the West Indies apart when they toured here in 2009.

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