Cricket
West Indies players took a knee, alongwith England (not pictured), as a mark of solidarity with global movement against racism. Image Credit: AFP

Dubai: The rains at Southampton made only 82 minutes' play possible on a day international cricket resumed after a four-month coronavirus shutdown, but it failed to dampen the spirits on Wednesday. The sport managed to send out a powerful statement when England and West Indies players took a knee under grey skies in support of the global campaign against racial injustice to usher in the start of the first of a three-Test series.

A little more than one hours' play was possible on a day marred by rain and bad light interruptions after weeks of glorious sunshine in Britain, but it was enough to warm the hearts of the cricket fraternity.

England stand-in captain Ben Stokes, leading the side while Joe Root was on family duty following the birth of his second child, won the toss after bad weather meant the morning session was washed out.

The players gathered in a semi-circle on the pitch before play started to observe a minute's silence in memory of the victims of the coronavirus and West Indies great Everton Weekes, who died last week at the age of 95.

Cricket
Members of England and West Indies teams observed a minute's silence in memory of those who have lost their lives across the world to the coronavirus pandemic and the death of Caribbean legend Everton Weekes last week. Image Credit: AFP

They then dropped to one knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign following the death in the United States of George Floyd in May.

West Indies players wore black gloves on their right hands in an echo of the "Black Power" protests made famous by US athletes at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

"It was a great moment, showing something we stand for and that racism has no part in cricket," West Indies fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, who took the only wicket to fall on Wednesday, said later.

England batting coach Graham Thorpe added: "It's important to show solidarity with the West Indies. The bottom line is we feel there is no room for racism in the sport."

Both teams are wearing BLM logos on their shirts during the three-match series, taking place behind closed doors at "bio-secure" grounds, with the first at the Ageas Bowl and the second two at Old Trafford.

There was an awkward moment after the toss when Stokes avoided the traditional handshake from opposing captain Jason Holder, a move prohibited under the special COVID-19 regulations applying to this series.

England ended the day at 35 for one when, after two rain stoppages and bad light - a problem even though the floodlights were on - play was finally abandoned for the day. 

Rory Burns was 20 not out and Joe Denly 14 not out.

Thorpe was just delighted to see England back playing cricket against a West Indies side who have gone ahead with the series even though more than 44,000 people in Britain have died during the pandemic.

"It's a massive thing," said Thorpe. "We've come a long way, having the West Indies over here."

Several star cricketers took heart that their sport could have some sort of a start. India's Rohit Sharma took to twitter to say: "Cricket is back Positive scenes coming out from UK. So good to finally see some cricket being played. Wishing both teams the best. Can't wait to be out there myself #EngVsWI."

West Indies have not won a Test series in England since 1988, but they hold the Wisden Trophy after a 2-1 series win in the Caribbean last year.