Dubai: There are no prizes for guessing that when the first ball will be bowled at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Wednesday, it will be more than a yet another Test series between hosts England and the West Indies.
It marks a red letter day in terms of resumption of international cricket and International Cricket Council (ICC), the world governing body of the game, has heaved a huge sigh of relief. “We are delighted at the resumption of international cricket with England taking on the West Indies in a Test series beginning tomorrow. I would like to thank the ECB for their tireless efforts in ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to ensure the safety and security of participants, said Manu Sawhney, CEO of ICC.
“Exactly four months ago to the day, the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final was watched by millions of fans the world over, and we are sure the excitement remains as high. I wish both teams and the match officials the very best for what promises to be an exciting series,” he said.
This will be the first time when international cricket will be played with a new set of changed rules, put forward by ICC, looking at the virus threat.
Bowlers won’t be able to use saliva on match balls, players will have to refrain from celebrating together and the stadium will be devoid of fans.
The other big change for this clash will be England star all-rounder Ben Stokes wearing the captain’s armband in place of regular Test skipper Joe Root, who left the bio-secure bubble and returned to Sheffield for the birth of his second child.
I would like to thank the ECB for their tireless efforts in ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to ensure the safety and security of participants
All eyes will be on all-rounders Stokes and Jason Holder in Southampton as they will lead their respective teams onto the pitch at Ageas Bowl to mark the beginning of this historic series.
West Indies batting legend Brian Lara, meanwhile, sounded a word of caution for West Indies as he felt they would need to adopt a proactive approach as the visitors don’t 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.
“They (West Indies) have to be able to pounce immediately. England are not beaten very easily at home and are overwhelming favourites,” Lara was quoted as saying by BBC Sport.
They (West Indies) have to hit the road running and stamp their authority on England. I don’t think they can last five days, so they have to take these games in four days. They have to establish a lead and keep it
“They have to hit the road running and stamp their authority on England. I don’t think they can last five days, so they have to take these games in four days. They have to establish a lead and keep it.”
Lara, who has scored a record 11,953 runs for the West Indies in 131 Tests, said adaptability to the English conditions would be key for West Indies, who are the holders of the Wisden Trophy after winning 2-1 in the Caribbean last year.
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.
“It’s going to be a series that’s watched all around the world and everybody is hoping to see a competitive series,” said Lara, who scored 34 Test centuries.
“It would mean a lot to all West Indians if they could win. If they play good cricket on the first day of the Test series, show they have the mettle to perform against England, that’s the key.”
The second and third Tests of the series will be played at Old Trafford in Manchester.