England commence the first of a three match test series against West Indies on Wednesday.
Match will be played at a biosecure venue of the Ageas Bowl Southampton.
After what has seemed an eternity, test cricket returns to England this week with the visiting West Indies, who will play a three match test series with a single test at the Ageas Bowl and two further tests to follow at Old Trafford Manchester.
The opening test match is going to feel very different for both sides and will be played in front of no fans either.
There will be no handshakes at the toss, with just the two captains and the match referee present in the middle.
Umpires will carry their own bails and the stumps will be wiped down with sanitiser during cleaning breaks. The ground staff have also been informed that they cannot go within 20 metres of players on the field.
There was a big scare for England going into the opening test when Sam Curran suffered a bug and was immediately tested for Covid-19. Thankfully, the Surrey all-rounder tested negative and was named in an initial squad as a reserve.
England announced a 13-man squad for the opening test, but will be without captain Joe Root who has returned back to his home in Sheffield to be at the birth of his second child.
He will self-isolate for seven days before joining up with the squad for the second test at Old Trafford, starting on 16th July.
Ben Stokes will captain the side- he will be England’s 81st test captain- in what will be an honour for the Durham man. This will be his biggest test so far on what has proved to be a magnificent career.
The hosts have packed their side with quick bowlers with Jimmy Anderson, Stuart Broad, Mark Wood, Chris Woakes and Jofra Archer named in the 13, with the likelihood of one of the five missing out.
For Archer- who was originally born in the West Indies- it will be a chance for him to show the visitors why he decided to play for England and not West Indies.
On Wednesday, England look to have the difficult decision of who to leave out from the original squad. Two players will be disappointed, with one fast bowler looking to miss out along with a batsman.
England have named a single spinner in the shape of Somerset’s Dom Bess who gets the nod over his county teammate Jack Leach after impressing against South Africa.
In terms of the batting, the top four looks to pick themselves with Rory Burns and Dominic Sibley opening with the Kent duo of Zak Crawley and Joe Denly coming in at three and four.
It will be a big test for both Crawley and Denly, with one of them losing their place once Root returns for the second test.
There will be a lot of pressure on Denly, who has now played 14 tests and averages 30. He desperately needs a hundred as time is against him. The 34-year-old needs to kick on after constantly getting into the thirties and forties but failing to get past 50.
For West Indies- who boast no less than nine players from Barbados- they are captained by the number one all rounder in the world Jason Holder.
Holder led the West Indies to a 2-1 series win in the Caribbean in the early part of 2019, and as a result they are the current holders of the Wisden Trophy.
His batting record against England is consistent, averaging over 40, having also scored his maiden century against England back in 2015.
Roston Chase, a key player for West Indies will come into this series having scored five tons and seven fifties in his 32 tests to date. He can also turn to his off-spinning skills, having picked up an eight-wicket haul against England in 2019.
Kemar Roach was the leading wicket taker in the 2019 series against England with 18 scalps at an average of 13.88 and warrants respect.
The West Indies have called on fast bowlers Shannon Gabriel, Chemar Holder and Alzarri Joseph to give them plenty of firepower in the bowling department, which appears to be their best chance of causing England plenty of problems.
In the past England have struggled when the opposition bat first and make anything more than 250.The West Indies know if they bat first and post a score on the board they have a great chance of beating England.
England will start firm favourites but write off the West Indies at your peril.
England West Indies
- Stokes J.Holder
- Anderson Blackwood
- Archer Bonner
- Bess Braithwaite
- Broad Brooks
- Burns Campbell
- Buttler Chase
- Crawley Cornwall
- Denly Dowrich
- Pope Gabriel
- Sibley C.Holder
- Woakes Hope
- Wood Joseph
First Test 8th July Ageas Bowl
Second Test 16th July Old Trafford
Third Test 24th July Old Trafford