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Could Windies be the surprise package for this year’s World Cup?

Chris Gayle - 135, 50, 162 and 77 in the recent ODI series against England

In his long and successful career, Jimmy Anderson is a man whose mouth has got him into trouble on more than a few occasions.

Ordinarily, his on-field outbursts might result in a stern word from the umpire or perhaps being fined a percentage of his match fee, but this time, a different type of verbal slip could cost England dear.

Last December, he remarked on a BBC podcast that England would have to “really screw up” not to win the World Cup. Tempting fate in this way caused general intakes of breath all round, but more worryingly for the World Cup hosts, their recent form has shown that “really screwing up” is definitely within the bounds of possibility.

Windies resurgent

The most recent banana skin came as the West Indies dished out a humiliating defeat in the fifth and final ODI, demolishing England for 113 and then knocking the runs off in a matter of just 12.1 overs. Even before this final act in what has been an enthralling series, Michael Vaughan was saying the West Indies might deliver some shocks when June comes around. Bookmakers are starting to agree, and the odds of them winning the ICC Cricket World Cup 2019 have now shortened from 20/1 to just 12/1.

One last hurrah for the Universe Boss

There are few records left to be broken for Chris Gayle, the self-styled Universe Boss of ODI cricket. However, the ICC World Cup is the biggest prize of them all, and it is one that has eluded the West Indies since their glory days of the 1970s. Gayle will turn 40 this year and has confirmed that he will retire after the World Cup. For the team to win it would be the stuff of fairytales, but you only have to look back on events in 2011 when India “won it for Sachin” to see that in World Cups, fairytales can come true. Gayle is certainly in the form of his life, having clattered the England attack for 135, 50, 162 and 77 in this series.

A team that can take on anyone

Gayle’s sheer presence can make it easy to forget that there are 10 other men out in the field, and it is worth remembering that a few weeks ago, the big man’s inclusion in the World Cup squad was by no means assured. Richard Pybus, the team coach, has been quick to stress that the team’s strength lies as much in its exciting young talent as in its 39 year old megastar.

Shai Hope has become a mainstay of the middle order, while Shimron Hetmyer’s century in the 2nd ODI showed a maturity beyond his 22 years. Meanwhile, Oshane Thomas has proved that the West Indies can still produce devastatingly fast bowlers who can blow anyone away.

Pybus told ESPN that his team of players can “take down anyone on their day.” Whether they can string enough of those days together to genuinely challenge for the World Cup is another matter, but England will certainly be taking nothing for granted, and a certain lad from Burnley will most likely be keeping his own counsel over the coming weeks.

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