Ashes preparation starts here
At the start of an English summer, when expectations are naturally heightened simply because it's an Ashes year, the warm-up act for Andy Flower's side is provided by a familiar foe in Chris Gayle's West Indies.
But while many of the game's global fans will be fascinated by what an ever-improving Windies side might achieve, England have a dual task: As well as winning the two-Test series, there also needs to be a feeling that their chances of winning the Ashes have improved, not declined.
Will a 1-0 win suffice? Perhaps. But at least as important as winning back the Wisden Trophy will be to provide concrete answers to troubling dilemmas.
Top of the worry list is the number three issue. This key batting position has been in the temporary ownership of a number of pretenders of late. It's high time that changed.
Ravi Bopara is the man who will sit in this claustrophobic cockpit for the first time at Lord's, following the axing of Owais Shah and the refusal to allow Ian Bell's county form and Michael Vaughan's reputation to cloud the issue.
If Bopara ends these two matches with at least one big score under his belt, then we can at least enter the Ashes with some confidence that the batting line-up is settled.
If not, then one of Bell, Shah and Vaughan could return to the picture, and far from steaming along smoothly, the England train will have suffered a temporary derailment.
The performances of Matt Prior against West Indies will also be closely scrutinised.
While his Test batting record is more than palatable, he continues to make high-profile errors with the gloves - like dropping top-order batsmen on a low score en route to a big century - and such misdemeanours cannot continue to go unnoticed.
Every Prior error will speed up the James Foster bandwagon, especially if Andrew Flintoff returns to fitness soon after the series.
The theory is that whereas Prior is good enough to bat at six, Foster might not be. A returning Flintoff, however, both stretches the batting order and boosts the bowling - so when he plays the gloveman can drop down a notch.
As with number three, so to with wicketkeeper: the team's success is almost secondary to the progress of Bopara and Prior.
Overall, the biggest problem with England's Test cricket since September 2005 has been the bowlers.
A number of matches, including six out of six at Lord's, have ended up as draws because England's bowlers have not had the overall quality to take 20 wickets on the essentially good wickets that prevail in modern Test cricket.
No matter how many runs Andrew Strauss, Kevin Pietersen and others have racked up in some impressive first innings, they have ultimately - and frustratingly - counted for nothing.
Matthew Hoggard had one bad match and was dumped; Steve Harmison has disappointed more often than not and finally seems on his way out, too, having been dropped from both the Test and one-day squads last week.
James Anderson continues to be James Anderson - veering from unplayable to ordinary, although he can never be criticised for lack of effort - while Stuart Broad's upward progress continues, although he has a hot-headed streak that is not always channelled all that well.
These two look the likeliest candidates to share the new ball against Australia in Cardiff in July, so it is absolutely vital that they produce solid returns against Gayle's men.
The other Ashes seam-bowling spots depend largely on the return to fitness of Flintoff and Ryan Sidebottom.
That said, it would not hurt at all if one of Graham Onions or Tim Bresnan picked up a man-of-the-match award at Lord's or Chester-le-Street.
Finally, who will be England's spinner? The received theory is that Graeme Swann has now supplanted Monty Panesar as the number one choice, and the Nottinghamshire man could have a big season if it's a hot, dry summer.
He may get to bowl a lot of overs at Lord's based on the seamers' recent toils there - and that could prove valuable practice for July.
England's spin-bowling reserves are certainly stronger than Australia's this year, so it may not hurt if groundsmen try to produce the odd wicket with a bit of turn in it. Well, why not use home advantage if you've got it?