International cricket makes its return with the first Test match of the series between England and the West Indies.
The first Test will be played at the Rose Bowl in Southampton while the second and third matches will take place at Old Trafford in Manchester.
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We also get out first look at what cricket in a global pandemic looks like with a raft of new protocols in place.
First Test | Wednesday 8 – Sunday 12 July 2020 | Rose Bowl, Southampton | 12:00 start time.
West Indies 7/1
England will be without skipper Joe Root who intends to be with his wife for the birth of their second child.
Ben Stokes captains England in Root’s stead, but it remains unclear exactly who will take his spot in the playing XI. With Rory Burns returning to the squad Zac Crawley might drop to number three with Dominic Sibley’s hundred in South Africa and ton on the Lions tour to Australia in February likely to win him the openers slot. Joe Denly and Ollie Pope should remain at four and six respectively with Stokes between them.
England have just one frontline spinner in their 13-man squad in Dominic Bess. Bess might struggle to break into the XI though even considering his knack for scoring valuable runs.
The hosts will flirt will a pace quartet of James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Stuart Broad, and Mark Wood. They also have seam-bowling allrounder Chris Woakes in the wings.
The West Indies will likely deploy an impressive pace quartet of their own led by skipper Jason Holder whose emergence as a genuine Test allrounder has coincided with an improvement from the team in the ultimate format.
Kraigg Brathwaite’s county experience and track record in England should keep him in the team despite a lean run of late seeing him average just 12 in his last ten Tests.
Shamarh Brooks will be looking to establish himself in the West Indies top order after a maiden century against Afghanistan last time out in Test cricket.
With Holder likely to be backed up by Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel and Alzarri Joseph, Roston Chase’s steadying influence in the middle order could prove more useful than the allrounder’s spin-bowling.
Verdict: England 2/7
The hosts have been encamped at the venue ahead of the first Test and should have a significant edge.