Gary Ballance may be expecting an England series win against the West Indies over the next few weeks, but the Yorkshire batsman believes the tourists will by no means be pushovers.
The two sides will, on Wednesday at Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl, launch the return of cricket following a near four-month Coronavirus-enforced break.
Like most cricket lovers, Ballance will be tuning in to what he believes will be an “exciting” contest, albeit one with no Yorkshire involvement given Test captain Joe Root is absent awaiting the birth of his second child. Root will return to play the second Test at Emirates Old Trafford on July 16.
“It’s been a long time, hasn’t it,” said Ballance.
“Anyone involved in the game will be very excited just to be able to get back to watch some live cricket.
“The West Indies have played very well against England over the last few years.
“As you saw when England went over there last time and lost (2-1 in early 2019), they have a good pace attack with a couple of guys who can bowl at 90 mph and some very talented batters.
“It’s always good watching the West Indies play, and it won’t be a walk in the park for England that’s for sure – even though I do think they will win given home conditions.
“I am going to go with 2-0 England.
“I think there will be a bit of rain around in one of the games, so there will be a draw.
“I think they will be close and exciting games, but England will win.”
With that aforementioned victory in early 2019, Jason Holder’s side currently hold the Wisden Trophy, and the last three series between the two sides – at home and abroad – have been close run affairs.
In early 2015, Ballance played in a 1-1 drawn series in the Caribbean, scoring a century and two fifties in the series.
In the summer of 2017, England won the series 2-1 courtesy of a final Test win at Lord’s. That was the series when Shai Hope became the first man to score two centuries in the same first-class match at Emerald Headingley.
Then, at the start of last year came the 2-1 home win for Holder and co.
Ballance is not the first, and won’t be the last, to praise the West Indies squad for agreeing to tour England at a time when Coronavirus is more rife here than it is in the Caribbean.
“With what’s gone on here, it couldn’t have been an easy decision for them to come over,” he said.
“It was probably a very strange and weird situation when they first arrived here, spending a bit of time in isolation and stuff.
“They deserve a lot of credit because of that.”