With the first Test starting on Wednesday, let’s take a look at five players we should all be keeping an eye on over the next fortnight.
Have England’s prayers surrounding their Number 3 spot finally been answered? It may be too early to say, but a good series for Jonny Bairstow should secure him the position for this summer’s Ashes. He’s certainly got all the attributes to succeed at No.3: a solid technique, the ability to make big scores, and plenty of attacking shots in his locker.
He played like a man possessed in Colombo, scoring a magnificent hundred and celebrating it with as much passion as we’ve ever seen from the Yorkshireman. Hopefully, he’ll continue in much the same way this winter. It’s fair to assume he won’t be keeping, either, so scoring runs will be his sole focus.
The Surrey opener did enough to earn himself another tour at the end of last year, and has warmed up well during the past week. To establish himself as an England player moving forwards, though, he needs test runs. Just as another, recently-retired, left-hander did back in 2006, Burns will be hoping to announce himself this winter on the biggest stage of all. This series could do a lot to solidify England’s batting lineup for the rest of 2019 if Burns, Jennings, and Bairstow can all perform.
After an excellent series in Sri Lanka, the left-arm spinner will be hoping for both another three test caps and plenty more wickets. The control he exhibited should be enough to earn him a spot in the XI for the first Test, but if he continues to perform he may well become a mainstay in Joe Root’s side. Much has been made of Moeen Ali’s reluctance to “lead” the spin-bowling attack, and so having Leach in the side could well help him, too.
Dwayne’s younger brother, Darren, has been recalled to the Test squad following an absence of over two years. Ostensibly, he lost his place because of an ill-advised tweet, which dubbed Dave Cameron (no, not that one) a “big idiot”.
He’s certainly a talented player, with shades of Brian Lara clear in the left-hander’s flamboyant pickup. He will also add some depth to the hosts’ batting unit, which also boasts talents such as Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite.
Down on pace, but by all accounts with improved control, he and Gabriel will look to lead the hosts’ bowling attack. Considering our focus on England’s top three it should be no surprise that one of the West Indies’ opening bowlers also features. If Roach et al have a successful series, it should make for a tight three tests. Early wickets could well be the defining feature of this winter.
For an overview of our wider thoughts on the Test series, including on England's prospects, check out our Test series preview.