England host the West Indies for a three-match Test series beginning at the Ageas Bowl on Wednesday.

Ben Stokes’ side will be keen to keep the momentum going after their strong showing in South Africa over the winter. Here is our preview of their opener against Jason Holder’s visitors.

English side beginning to take shape

While England’s bowling attack largely picks itself these days, the batting order has been an area of debate for quite some time. The likes of James Vince, Alex Hales and Nick Compton have all tried and failed to press their claims for a spot in the top six, while Jonny Bairstow’s poor run of form saw him dropped. In Rory Burns and Dom Sibley, England finally look to have found an opening pair capable of doing more than just seeing the shine of the new ball.

Burns averages nearly 35 in Tests so far and has really found his feet in recent series, while Sibley looked the type of old-fashioned opener that England had been searching for when he notched up his maiden Test hundred against the Proteas earlier this year. Burns is the 7/2 favourite to be England’s top scorer in the first Test with Sibley a 9/2 chance.

The other batsman who might be worth a second look in that market is Ollie Pope. The Surrey batsman has taken to Test cricket like a duck to water and he’s already scored three 50s and a hundred in his 11 innings so far. He looked in good form too in England’s recent practice game and could make hay against an ordinary-looking Windies bowling attack. Pope is 9/2 to be England’s top run scorer in the first innings.

Visitors counting on captain fantastic

 Given England are just 1/7 to win the series, with the visitors available at 12/1, it shows the uphill challenge Holder’s team have here. They’ve only won four Test series since 2015, three of which were against Zimbabwe, Bangladesh and Afghanistan. However, they did beat England 2-1 on home soil the last time the two sides met, which will give them plenty of confidence that they can cause their hosts problems here.

They have plenty of quality in their side, most notably their skipper Holder, who is the world’s best all-rounder and the third best bowler. He’s really led from the front in recent years and with conditions at the Ageas Bowl likely to suit, he could be a good option for top first innings bowler at 3/1.

Holder is also West Indies’ highest-ranked batsman and he’s 9/1 to score the most runs in the first innings, but he’ll be hoping his team-mates higher up than him in the order can cash in more than they have recently. Namely Shai Hope, who scored consecutive hundreds at Headingley the last time the Windies toured. The Barbadian is the 3/1 favourite to outscore his teammates in the opening innings.

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