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Be very afraid – Chris Gayle is back for the West Indies

We are in a different format now, twenty overs instead of 50 overs, and the injured Joe Root has been replaced by Ian Bell, but there is no doubt what the big news is as England start their three-match Twenty20 series in Barbados on Sunday evening (BST) – Chris Gayle is back.

Others, like Aussie opener Aaron Finch, and India’s closer, MS Dhoni, are also capable of producing the fireworks on their day, but the Windies left-hander manages to  do it with an incredible mixture of violence and panache.

Last April he scored the fastest ever century (30 balls) in the IPL on his way to 175 in 66 – another record. England have to find a way to keep Chris Gayle (9/4 favourite to score most for the hosts) quiet if they are to beat the reigning Twenty20 world champions; let him get away and the game’s over.

Having said all that, the West Indies haven’t been in the best of form in the shortest format, a shock defeat against Ireland coming after series defeats to Pakistan and New Zealand. Coral bet 4/5 the West Indies, evens England for this first game and the tourists certainly have more reasons to be optimistic than they were when they left Australia with their tails between their legs.

Joe Root going home with a broken thumb is a big loss. England’s star man of the ODI series, the young Yorkshireman will be missed and not just for his runs (he averages over 50 in Twenty20s). Ashley Giles and Stuart Broad have been using Root to open the bowling and he hasn’t let them down.

Fortunately, Ian Bell (4/1 to be England’s leading batsman), is already in the Caribbean as cover for the injured Alex Hales and Eoin Morgan and we all know what a class act he is.

These matches will be no easier to call than the ODI series. This may be the format that the England team was picked for, but that’s counteracted by the Chris Gayle factor and of course you wouldn’t expect either team to be absolutely on their ‘A’ game so close to the Twenty20 World Cup in Bangladesh later this month.

For those looking for a clue in the stats, the West Indies lead England 6-3 in Twenty20 head-to-heads and are three places ahead in the world rankings.

Bbut I just have the feeling that the confidence taken from their ODI series triumph, albeit a series that could easily have gone the other way, might just tip things in their favour in this opener.