Cricket admirers across the world will get a sigh of relief as soon as Jason Holder and Ben Stokes walks in to toss for the first test between England and West Indies at Rose Bowel, Southampton on 8 July 2020. The two other tests will be played at Old Trafford Manchester.
The grounds have been prepared taking great care and the well protected accommodation and transportation facilities for the players have been ensured. It is after exactly 4 months international cricket would return since COVID19 avalanched cricket like every other sporting events across the world. The last international match was the final of ICC T20 women world cup final held at MCG Melbourne between Australia and India.
Cricket is returning under strict surveillance observing all guidelines of procedures of health safety in empty stadium. The players of West Indies stayed in mandatory quarantine for 14 days upon arrival and practiced under close monitoring. Hope all will proceed well and cricket will be back with a bang. England is now a formidable test unit and on their own backyard will be a tough proposition for West Indies which is possibly the youngest ever team to England. But West Indies is always a very exciting team and add glamour and glory to world cricket. Playing in empty terraces observing some new set of rules introduced by ICC to offset COVID impacts would be closely looked into.
Meantime the squads have been declared. The 25 members West Indies squad originally had 14 men test squad and 11 reserves,
The West Indies Test squad:
Jason Holder (captain), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich (wicketkeeper), Chemar Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Raymon Reifer and Kemar Roach. Shanon Gabriel injured unfit at the time of declaration of the squad later added to the squad after passing fitness test.
England also announced the squad for the first team with 13 players and as many as 9 reserves
England squad for first Test:
Ben Stokes (capt), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Dominic Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Joe Denly, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood
Reserves: James Bracey, Sam Curran, Ben Foakes, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Ollie Robinson, Olly Stone
West Indies, under Jason Holder, will be defending the Wisden Trophy that they reclaimed after a memorable 2-1 Test series win in West Indies in 2019. Holder's men won in Bridgetown and North Sound to seal an unassailable 2-0 win after which England avoided a white-wash by clinching a 232-run in Gros Islet in the final Test of the series.
The stars of West Indies' triumph were captain Holder and fast bowler Kemar Roach. While Holder topped the batting charts with 229 runs, including a high score of 202, in just 3 innings, Kemar Roach topped the bowling charts with 18 wickets, including a five-wicket haul that saw England getting rolled over for 77 in the first Test in Bridgetown.
West Indies have to bring back memories of test series win in England after 32 years as West Indies have not managed to win a Test series in England since 1988. The last West Indies captain to win a Test series in England was Sir Vivian Richards when he led his team to a 4-0 triumph in the Old Blighty in 1998. Overall, West Indies and England have met 157 times in Tests with West Indies winning 57 of them and losing only 49.
It goes without saying that England with a much more settled side is firm favourites. Moreover, the young Caribbean side is mostly inexperienced of English conditions. Nine of the 15 members squad however are from Barbados. When West Indies will start the series they will definitely have memories of their just deceased legend Sir Everton Weeks also a Barbadian. He along with two fellow Barbadians Sir Frank Worrell and Sir Cyril Walcott teased and tormented English Cricketers in their prime. Would not be surprised if one or two unknown West Indians surprise the cricket world with out of the box performance. But the onus of the batting against quality English attack of Anderson Broad, Archer / Wood and Woakes will rest on Hope, Brathwaite, Dowrich and Blackwood. Captain Holder would require to chip in as well. Compared to the batting bowling looks pretty strong with Roach, Gabriel, Josef and Holder leading the way. The young team should field better and take their chances.
England retained mostly the unit that last played against South Africa. Possibly looking at the prospect of much closer contest in the series against Pakistan they took a calculated risk resting Jionny Bairstow and Moeen Ali. Joe Root is not available for family reasons . In his absence flamboyant Ben Stokes will lead the team. Joe Denly has been favoured and Joe Buttler would keep the wickets. England would be in a little dilemma whether to unleash Jofra Archer ahead of Mark Wood or keep him fresh for Pakistan. Anderson and Broad would the first choice and Chris Woakes would be pace bowling all rounder. Sam Curran, the other all rounder has been tested COVID 19 positive. James Bracey and Dan Lawrence, who both caught the eye with half-centuries, have been retained as the back-up batsmen. Dom Bess would lead English spin attack in absence of Moeen Ali.Ben Stokes in line to become England's 81st Test captain, the selectors have stuck with familiar names for the first of three matches in three weeks against West Indies. Rory Burns returns, having suffered ankle-ligament damage while playing football in South Africa, and seems set to open alongside Dom Sibley, with Denly and Zak Crawley the options to cover for Root's absence at No. 4. Ollie Pope and Stokes will complete the batting line-up, while Jos Buttler retains the gloves,
Well on paper it appears to become an uneven contest, but cricket is a funny game . West Indies is always a very unpredictable team. Cricket is a funny game. Sometimes relatively unknown players against big names come up with extraordinary performances and turn heroes overnight. It happened in the past and will happen in the future as well. But the cricket world would be interested watching how test match is played with none from the gallery cheering in door locked Rose Bowel.
BDST: 1200 HRS, JUL 05, 2020