Focus on CWC as WT20 finalists meet | cricket.com.au

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Focus on CWC as WT20 finalists meet

West Indies and England have differing goals in mind in their ODI series, their first meeting since the epic World T20 final

West Indies face England in a three-match one-day international series, starting early Saturday morning AEDT, under pressure to reverse a run of poor form that could see them facing the indignity of having to qualify for the 2019 World Cup.

The two sides will meet for the first time since their memorable ICC World T20 final last year, which the Windies won after an extraordinary last-over flourish from allrounder Carlos Brathwaite.

While a lot of the focus heading into the series is on Brathwaite's re-match with England allrounder Ben Stokes, the home side is desperate to peg back some ground in the all-important International Cricket Council ODI rankings.

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The top eight-ranked teams at the end of September this year automatically advance to the event in England, while the other nations will be forced to enter a qualification tournament in Bangladesh in 2018.

The West Indies, currently in ninth spot, are three points behind Pakistan and a further two adrift of Bangladesh. They have only this series, a return duel in England in September and, critically, three matches against Pakistan in the Caribbean in April to make the cut.

England have no such concerns as hosts of both the World Cup and the Champions Trophy in June this year, for which the West Indies failed to qualify.

Newly installed West Indies coach Stuart Law said making the 2019 World Cup was crucial.

"The main aim is to qualify for the next World Cup so these one-day games are extremely important to us," said the Australian.

"So that's our main focus really at this stage. I know we have Pakistan coming for T20s, Tests and one-dayers as well but the one-day series probably will take paramount importance."

An intriguing sub-plot will be the battle between Brathwaite and Stokes after the West Indian hammered the England right-armer for four consecutive sixes to steal the World T20 final in Kolkata last year.

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Stokes, a highly-talented allrounder was recently installed as England's Test vice-captain, has also been in the headlines recently after being purchased by the Rising Pune Supergiant for a record fee in the recent Indian Premier League auction.

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Renowned a combative player on the field, Stokes admits the level of attention he's received following the auction has made it "awkward" to talk about.

"Being out on the pitch is a lot easier than talking to you lot," he told the BBC this week.

"Being out there is something we're used to and something we've been doing for years and years. And probably being out on the pitch is where I'm most comfortable.

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"The auction stuff is very tough to talk about. It's one of those things that makes me a little bit awkward. You may have noticed.

"The main thing you want to do is walk off at the end on the winning team. All things outside that bubble go out of the window once you go out on to the pitch."

West Indies’ last victory in a head-to-head series was in 2007 in England under the leadership of Chris Gayle, one of several prominent players now ruled ineligible for regional representative duty due to commitments to lucrative T20 franchise tournaments around the world.

Both teams are coming off series losses; the West Indies failing to advance to the final of a three-nation tournament in Zimbabwe last November that also involved Sri Lanka, and England falling to India in January after being thrashed in the preceding Test series at the end of 2016.

"The wickets will be a little bit more challenging here than in India," said England skipper Eoin Morgan.

"The wickets there were batter-friendly, a lot more so than we thought they were going to be."

Notwithstanding the favourites’ tag, the English will also be wary of the conditions as well as the opposition following contrasting victories in two warm-up matches against what was effectively a West Indies second-string outfit in St Kitts.

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While most of the frontline batsmen were able to get decent scores in a commanding performance on Saturday, they laboured on the same pitch at Warner Park two days later, eking out a two-wicket win after the middle-order stuttered against the spinners.

With the surface at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium in North Sound expected to be of a similar nature, West Indies are likely to play both frontline slow bowlers, Devendra Bishoo and Ashley Nurse.

England, who have summoned Tom Curran from the Lions tour of Sri Lanka to replace fast-medium bowler Jake Ball, are likely to counter with Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid seeking to exploit a dry, wearing pitch.

West Indies cricket’s ongoing disputes involving premier players continues as batsman Darren Bravo, who publicly disparaged West Indies Cricket Board president Dave Cameron via Twitter last November and was subsequently withdrawn from the tour of Zimbabwe, is not being considered for selection until he submits a formal apology.

The first two matches of the series will take place at North Sound, Antigua this weekend before switching to Barbados on March 9.