Welcome to summer

You wouldn’t have guessed it from the weather, but summer must finally be here. The Premier League limped to a climax (bit of a damp squib, eh?) and Sporting Index have released their prices for England’s three match Test series against the West Indies that starts at Lord’s on Thursday.

Recent home series against the Windies, of which there have been an inordinate number, have had a similar complexion. The men from the Caribbean have struggled with early season conditions: greenish pitches, seam movement, and chilly atmospheric conditions all causing problems. On one recent tour, the gloom got to Chris Gayle to such an extent (and through the five jumpers he was wearing) that the coolest man in cricket was driven to the verge of jacking in the five-day format. After one of the wettest springs on record, is there any evidence that things will be different this time out?

The Windies last tour (2009) was a nadir – called in as late replacements for Zimbabwe, WI shivered through the motions and were drubbed at both Lord’s and Chester-le-Street. Back in 2007 England won 3-0 and, as has become a theme, Shiv Chanderpaul was the only man to offer any substantial resistance. Add a 4-0 thrashing in 2004 as Michael Vaughan’s side built towards an Ashes triumph (a series that included a double-ton from Rob Key, where he?) and the days of Brian, Courtney and Curtley seem distant.

What can we expect from Darren Sammy’s charges in 2012? It appeared to be a case of same-old same-old against the England Lions as the Windies were bowled out for 147 in the first innings, whilst the hosts managed 341 in reply. However, as the sun peaked out, the Windies batting fired and they managed 390 in their second dig (108 from Kieran Powell and 77 from that man Chanderpaul). Michael Carberry and Joe Root did knock off the required 197 without loss, but there were glimpses that the West Indies might be competitive.

SpIn go 54-57 on England’s win index (25 per win, 10 per draw) suggesting they believe England will dominate the series. England series ton-ups are pitched at 138-148 – this might be worth a buy. Bopara, Pietersen and Cook have all made big hundreds against the West Indies in recent years and WI’s last day performance against the Lions suggests their bowling attack can be pummeled into toothlessness.

The ‘Zero Tolerance’ market (10 points per duck, 25 per first-baller) is pitched at 72-80 for WI; I might be tempted to have a small buy here. If the ball swings, a clatter of wickets is extremely possible – anything like this Andy Caddick over from the 2000 series and you’d be in profit straight away.

Looking at the player markets, a stand out bet looks to be a buy of Chanderpaul’s runs at 235. Tour after tour the crab-like Guyanese has shown the application and skill to succeed in the conditions – I’ll be happy to have him on side this time. Darren Bravo (Dwayne’s half brother), on the other hand, despite a stellar start to his test career (3 tons and an average of 49.6 from 16 matches) could be found out and I recommend a sell at 190.

As far as the bowlers are concerned, the England pacemen look fully priced. Perhaps it is worth opposing Swann (143-153: 10 points per wkt, 25 point bonus for a five-for) on the logic that the seamers might do the bulk of the damage. I also quite like the look of WI’s lanky off-spinner Shane Shillingford and, given England’s woeful efforts against spin on their winter tours, he is a potential buy at 115.

Shane Shillingford

The Thursday morning forecast for Lord’s is an overcast 10 degrees. Remember your jumpers and hand-warmers Mr Sammy!

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