West Indies vs England test series marks the return of International Cricket
West Indies and England will be in action in front of empty stands at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton from Wednesday as sport-deprived cricket fans are expected to tune in from across the globe.
The first test between England and West Indies marks the return of International cricket after a four months hiatus due to Coronavirus pandemic. The sport had not seen such a long break since the 2 World Wars in the early 20th century.
However, the wishes of the cricket fans are answered and the sound of the leather brushing the middle of the willow is all set to be heard again as England take on West Indies in what promises to be a historic 3-Test series from July 8. The two teams will be in action in front of empty stands at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton from Wednesday as sport-deprived cricket fans are expected to tune in from across the globe.
A smoothly run Test series, played in a strict isolated environment featuring repeated Covid-19 testing and social distancing, can lay the blueprint for future matches and tours in cricket but also events in other sports targeting a resumption.
Only the two captains, Ben Stokes and Jason Holder, and match referee Chris Broad will go out for the toss, says the booklet. There will be no cameras at the toss, and no handshakes after.
Players can’t share gloves, shirts, water bottles, bags, or sweaters. There will be no ball boys, and ground staff won’t go within 20 metres of the players on the field. Off it, the social distancing rule of two square metres will have to be adhered to.
Team sheets will be digital. Scorers will not share pens and pencils. Accredited personnel will be tracked through a chip-enabled Covid tracker card.
The International Cricket Council (ICC) has already banned use of saliva on the ball — after two warnings, a five-run penalty will be imposed.
At a time when the sport is grappling with financial issues, England and West Indies have taken a major step towards return to business. The sporting world was filled with uncertainty when the pandemic forced lockdowns and closure of borders across the globe. Lives and livelihoods were lost and it did not seem cricket would return as early as July.
However, England and West Indies boards have ticked the right boxes so far in making arrangements for the Test series while keeping the safety and health of the players and other stakeholders as a priority.
While the two sides are filled with all-rounders, the battle between fast bowlers is going to be mouth-watering. While James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood and Stokes will be battling for spots, West Indies will be going in with Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, captain Holder and youngster Alzarri Joseph.
Keep in mind, the quartet caused England a lot of trouble as they led West Indies to a 2-1 win at home last year.
However, batting legend Brian Lara believes West Indies will need to adopt a proactive approach in the upcoming three-Test series against England and consider the matches as four-day games as the visitors do not have the firepower to last five days. The 51-year-old former skipper said while West Indies’ boast of a formidable bowling attack, their batting department is a concern, which is precisely the reason behind his statement. The former left-handed batsman said it would be a great achievement for West Indies if they can win the series as they have not won a series in England since 1988.
The West Indies squad has been here since June 9 in order that the players could first quarantine at Manchester’s Old Trafford ground and then practise there in lockdown conditions. They had two intrasquad matches before the squad travelled to Southampton for the match.
The other two Tests take place in Manchester, starting July 16 and 24.
Full squads for England vs West Indies, 1st Test
England: Ben Stokes (C), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler (wk), Zak Crawley, Joe Denly, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
West Indies: Jason Holder (C), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich (wk), Shannon Gabriel, Chemar Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach.