West Indies will host Australia in the first of three Tests at Bridgetown in Barbados from April 7.
At the start of the tour, one would have assumed that this was going to be a cakewalk for the much-stronger Australian side but after five ODIs and two T20Is, there is barely anything to choose from between the two sides.
Both teams have won two ODIs and a T20I on the tour so far and to add to the balance, there has been a tie as well. Suddenly, the Test matches may not end as one-sided as previously though.
The good news for Australia (8/11 at Stan James
) is that two of their most experienced batsmen, Michael Clarke and Ricky Ponting will be back. Clarke returns from an injury while Ponting is no longer a part of Australia’s ODI plans but continues to be a leading run-getter in Tests.
The side that played India back home will be further bolstered by the return of Shane Watson, who gave a good account of himself in the ODIs. Watson and Dave Warner (4/1 at Stan James
to be the top-scorer for Australia) will bat at the top of the innings, with Ponting, Clarke and Michael Hussey occupying the middle-order. There is one vacant position, most likely at number three and one of Ed Cowan or Peter Forrest will bat here.
West Indies (5/1 at bet365
) will be led by Darren Sammy, who has epitomised the fighting qualities that one usually associated with a proud West Indian cricketer in the 1970s and 1980s. Adrian Barath’s return from injury in the ODIs stood him in good stead and he could open the innings with Kraigg Brathwaite.
Deputy in command, Kirk Edwards, will look to build the fabulous start to his Test career (average of 54 in six Tests) as he bats at three with Darren Bravo and experienced Guyanese Shivnarine Chanderpaul (10/3 at Boylesports
to top-score for West Indies) down the order.
Ravi Rampaul is back from his fitness issues and could take the new ball with Kemar Roach, while Fidel Edwards might bowl one change. In the absence of Sunil Narine, who has opted to play in the IPL, Devendra Bishoo will take up the lone spinner’s spot in the 11.
Australia should go in as favourites but West Indies can be expected to fight it out till the very end.