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Nic Ladds 3rd Feb 2009 - 16:08

Controversy, injury, uncertainty - yes England Test cricket is back!

The much anticipated Test Series gets underway tomorrow and the England find themselves even money favourites in the betting to take the first game.

The West Indies are available at odds of 5/2 with the draw at 11/5. England have not lost a Test series to the Windies in 15 years and although they are favourites, the home side will see no reason why they can't get a result.

The first Test is at Sabina Park, Jamaica which is notorious for rapidly deteriorating as games go on which given the inconsistency of both these sides makes it difficult to be certain about an outcome.

Many will remember Steve Harmison destroying the West Indies batting line-up in 2004 as he took 7 wickets for 12 runs as the Windies collapsed to 47 all out.

Harmy is not the force of old now however and spells in and out of the national side demonstrate some of the struggles he has faced and he can be backed at 7/2 in the betting to be top England bowler.

Whilst it is hard to know what you're getting with a lot of the English bowlers Stuart Broad is probably the most reliable at the moment and he is 6/1 to be top.

With too many injury doubts about Andrew Flintoff (3/1) and Ryan Sidebottom (4/1), Broad could well put up a bold display and should take his place in the starting line-up as he will also shore up the lower order batting.

Due to the erratic nature of the pitch though, any bowler could realistically take his fair share of wickets.

The home side's bowling attack is certainly nowhere near the standard of when the likes of Curtly Ambrose and Courtney Walsh terrorised batsmen all over the world.

They'll have to make do with Jerome Taylor and Fidel Edwards who are 5/2 and 9/4 respectively to be top West Indies bowler.

In the last match played here it was the slower paced bowlers that took most of the glory as the wicket can become so erratic meaning fast bowlers can often fire down wayward deliveries which could mean slow and steady reaps the rewards which makes Daren Powell look appealing at odds of 4/1 for West Indian top bowler.

It is interesting to note that in the last three Tests here the side batting first have won, meaning the toss could be crucial.

Kevin Pietersen is still England's main hope of big runs at odds of 5/2 for top England batsman. The former captain will be keen to put in a big performance to take the glean off his very public bust-up with ex-coach Peter Moores.

New captain Andrew Strauss is available at odds of 3/1 while Andrew Flintoff has been declared fit and is a big price at 10/1 to top score for England.

Paul Collingwood is another interesting runner at 7/1. He made a decent 82 in the warm-up match and is not afraid to play some big shots.

If he turns up on song he could be the man to steady the England ship if the top of the order doesn't fire.

The one man who is capable of a big innings regardless of place, pitch or any other factor is Shivnarine Chanderpaul.

He appeals even at 5/2 to be top West Indian batsman with the only other possible option being Chris Gayle at 7/2.

Ramnaresh Sarwan at 4/1 is capable of a big innings but he lacks the consistency of the other two.

 

If you do fancy a bet on the top England batsman then William Hill have an offer whereby if you place anywhere for £5 to £25 to whoever you fancy for England and we'll match your bet so you can have a punt on West Indian top batsman.

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This is a match between two teams who have hit rock bottom and are both now on the mend.

Both sides have the ability to implode at any time and it looks certain that the bowlers will get wickets and the match will be decided so it could well come down to whose batsman can withstand the onslaught the longest.

Due to England's stronger overall batting line-up they may just edge it but don't expect a repeat of the humiliation of 2004.

England are rightly favourites as the West Indies have had an abysmal record for some time now and whoever can come out best of this Test and indeed the series will receive a confidence boost that both sides desperately need.

Recommendation:
Shivnarine Chanderpaul top West Indian batsman - 5/2
Stuart Broad top England bowler - 6/1

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