England spent their first day in the West Indies on Friday in their luxury accommodation in St Kitts, an island of 35 square miles in the middle of the Caribbean Sea, populated by 45,000 easy-going inhabitants. There is no more relaxing venue to be found anywhere, ideal perhaps for temporarily blanking the persistent distraction of Kevin Pietersen, if a little too laid-back a place in which to properly get ready for three back-to-back Tests in the space of three weeks.
Captain Alastair Cook, Ian Bell and Jimmy Anderson would remember it as the location where they started their 2009 tour with matches against a St Kitts Invitational XI and West Indies A. They moved on to Jamaica for the first Test a few days later, where Jerome Taylor’s pace sent them spiraling to 51 all out and defeat by an innings and 23.
Jonny Bairstow, Adam Lyth, Adil Rashid and Ben Stokes were there for 12 days at the start of England Lions’ tour of seven first-class matches four years ago.
This time, England are restricted to a couple of two-day matches against St Kitts & Nevis, a team without first-class status. Cook and his men can anticipate an effortless workout. They then make the short hop of 65 miles to Antigua for the first Test at the Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, starting Monday, April 13. They could find that their ground work would have been better served by tougher opposition first-up.
At a time when chief selector Clive Lloyd speaks of building a West Indies team for the future, a four-day match would also have allowed some of the emerging players exposure to a somewhat higher level than the domestic Caribbean Professional League.
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