Alec Swann - Foreign conditions will make it home banker in Test series

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There is something special about the start of the international summer, something to signify that, if you are willing to excuse the irony, summer is here.

Football is gone (well it isn’t but it used to be), rugby has been done and dusted (ditto) and the summer game can take its rightful place at the head of the sporting table.

At least that’s how I and many others will be viewing things a week today when England open their programme against the West Indies at Lord’s.

The opening salvos of what promises to be an intriguing few months should focus the mind of an England side who, although still at the top of the world rankings, slipped from their pedestal to some degree during their winter of middle eastern/sub continental discontent.

And with the main event, and this is meant as no disrespect to the hors d’oeuvres, of the South Africans to come later in the season, it is the West Indies who will provide the first challenge.

But while all but the most one-eyed England supporter will expect a closely fought battle with Graeme Smith’s outfit, the same can’t be said for the three-Test skirmish against Darren Sammy’s men.

The bookmaker I inquired at had the hosts at 4/7 favourites and the visitors at 13/2 and these odds don’t look stingy/generous enough.

I have an unenviable record of predicting the outcome of the majority of sporting events but on this one, safe ground should be occupied.

Quite simply, if the weather holds and that is a big if, there is only one winner of this series and that is the home side.

Their rise to number one in the world has been built on the solid foundations of an excellent record in this country and that reason alone is enough to suggest they will come out on top.

The West Indies have shown some good signs in recent months since Ottis Gibson became coach and Sammy took the reins.

They competed well in India and they gave the Australians a good battle in the Caribbean to prove that there is more of a backbone than has existed in the not too distant past.

And with a handful of talented younger players the outlook is a touch brighter than has been the case.

But even so, to overcome England will shape as a very big challenge and one that they will struggle to overcome.

England, and more specifically in the early part of the season, offers unique conditions, ones that the home attack, especially James Anderson, are tailored to exploit and the visiting batting line-up will do well to counter.

Although there is more to the series than this isolated contest, if the West Indies are unable to post decent totals then they are doomed.

Their counterparts, despite their woes in the winter, will feel more comfortable in familiar surroundings and should prosper despite the threat offered by the quickly improving Kemar Roach.

Add in the cold – could this country at the moment be any more inhospitable to foreign cricketers? – and you have all the recipe for a home banker.

So bearing all this in mind, and if you’ve got a few quid to spare, those odds might not look so tight after all.