Pace ace Plunkett primed to perform for relaxed England
Back Bairstow to star in Old Trafford series-opener
Sky Sports Cricket, 12.30pm Tuesday
West Indies defied autumnal conditions in Durham to beat England in Saturday night’s one-off T20 clash at Chester-le-Street but bookmakers are convinced the Three Lions will prevail in their five-ODI series that begins at Old Trafford on Tuesday.
Eoin Morgan’s hosts, who won a March 50-over series in the Caribbean between the sides 3-0, are no bigger than 1-3 to secure the spoils, as they have in four of their last five home ODI series.
They have also beaten Ireland 2-0 and South Africa 2-1 in ODIs and reached the Champions Trophy semi-finals – an event the Windies failed to qualify for – this summer.
Key all-rounders Ben Stokes and Moeen Ali, rested at the Riverside, are back for the Three Lions, who also cruised to success against the Windies in their 50-over meetings at the Rose Bowl and The Oval in June 2012.
England are 2-5 to take a lead in Manchester where they have won six of their last eight ODIs and their last three day-nighters.
However, before piling in at short prices, punters should consider that the visitors’ batting ranks are stronger now than they were in March, and for series defeats to Pakistan and India since, with Chris Gayle and Marlon Samuels back in the fold.
England’s last two defeats in Manchester ODIs have come in September, albeit in 10.30am starts.
Two years ago, they were skittled for 138 by Australia after Morgan had won the toss and batted a week after winning an Old Trafford day-nighter by 93 runs. Four years ago, the Green & Golds defended 317 easily.
Liam Plunkett looks a value bet at 5-1 to be England’s leading wicket-taker in the series.
Plunkett has a stated aim of finishing the year as the leading wicket-taker in ODIs. He has 28 victims and leader Rashid Khan of Afghanistan on 35 has no more matches to play, while Pakistan’s second-placed Hasan Ali has 31 and also has a maximum of five games more.
Plunkett enjoyed great success against the Windies in March with nine victims, as well as taking 3-27 on Saturday. He is now considered to be the spearhead of the Three Lions’ limited-overs pace attack so the selectors are much more likely to rotate Jake Ball, David Willey and potential debutant Tom Curran.
With the Ashes in mind, Morgan is bound to manage the workload of Chris Woakes and Stokes while Adil Rashid may miss a few matches if two spinners are not considered best for the conditions.
Alex Hales is worth backing at 11-4 in the top England series runscorer market even though he will have to battle the new ball in swinging conditions. He top-scored with 43 at the Riverside on Saturday and will be bidding to book a berth on the Ashes tour.
Hales’s T20 summer for champions Notts ran out of steam but he won the Outlaws the 50-Over Cup final at Lord’s in July almost single-handedly with 187 not out and last summer he whacked 171 in an ODI against Pakistan.
Hales hit 110 in his only outing in the Caribbean in March and has made four fifties in nine ODIs since that Barbados ton. He is likely to be a mainstay around which changes are made.
In the first ODI, Hales’s fellow opener Jonny Bairstow should be backed to score a half-century.
He made 99 in July’s Test against South Africa at Old Trafford and has passed the landmark in three of his last six home ODIs as well as making 43 in the Champions Trophy semi-final loss to Pakistan after winning a recall to partner Hales at the top of the order.
L Plunkett top England series wicket-taker
2pts 5-1 Betway
A Hales top England series runscorer
1pt 11-4 Coral, Ladbrokes
J Bairstow to score a fifty in first ODI
1pt 13-8 Coral
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