International cricket is finally set to return after an almost 100 days break due to the COVID-19 pandemic, as England takes on the West Indies in a three-match Test series, starting July 8.
However, moderate rain is in the forecast and that could put a damper on the proceedings at the Rose Bowl Stadium in Southampton this Wednesday.
Meanwhile, both teams are chomping at the bit to get the first Test underway in the three-match series as fans are also waiting to exhale.
The England Cricket Board (ECB) has already named its 13-man squad and will reveal its hand when an 11-man team take the field or nine remain in the dugout while two face the music at the wicket.
So, here is what we know, all-rounder Ben Stokes will take over the captaincy as Joe Root will not be able to play in the Test due to the birth of his second child.
Stokes is coming off a brilliant season with both bat and ball but with the long layoff from cricket due to the plague, he may now be a little ring rusty.
It will also be interesting to see how he handles the additional pressure with his new position as the sit-in captain.
Any analysis of the England squad will show that their bowling department is top class even to a one eye-cyclops. The Anderson- Broad duo is sure to start with the new ball, and Jofra Archer, who is coming from an elbow fracture, will be keen to uproot the batsmen of his roots with his raw pace.
Also, with Ben Stokes as the 4th bowler and the spinner Dom Bess, it gives a true indication of how lethal the England attack may turn out.
These bowlers will test the Windies batsmen and if they become weak-kneed, all hell will break loose for the series.
That said, England might go with an extra batsman, just looking at the inexperienced top-order.
England does not have Bairstow, Root, and Ali in the middle order, and this is the weakness in the team which the Windies will seek to capitalize on.
England Squad for the 1st Test: Ben Stokes (captain), James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler (wk), Zak Crawley, Joe Denly, Ollie Pope, Dom Sibley, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
On the other hand, the men from the Caribbean also have their quiver full of arrows or their slingshot, donkey jawbone even, in Bible speak.
The fact is team Windies can match England in the bowling department, albeit with less experience.
Shannon Gabriel makes a come-back and showed his class in the warmup games a few days ago. Kemar Roach, the veteran of the lot, is superb when on song and in full flight with the ball. The smile less Alzarri Joseph is a danger to any batter, and no doubt will seek to make the English men jump or play hopscotch at the wicket. Captain Jason Holder’s record against the Brits speaks for itself as witnessed from his field of play when the English men last tour the Caribbean. The World’s number one all-rounder Holder, inspired Windies to a surprise 2-1 series win against England at home in 2019, can it happen again?
That said, the Windies batting department is their weakest link, but they do have Hope, Shai, and several young guns who will be seeking to make their name and cement their position in the team.
West Indies Squad: Jason Holder (c), Jermaine Blackwood, Nkrumah Bonner, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, Shane Dowrich, Shannon Gabriel, Chemar Holder, Shai Hope, Alzarri Joseph, Raymon Reifer, Kemar Roach
There were few practice matches played before this Test and looking at the pitch; it is described as sluggish. There wasn’t much carry to the wicketkeeper, and that’s obvious because no cricket was played on the wicket for a long time.
If the wicket continues to play slow for the test match, it will test the quickies on both teams given the saliva ban which averts the change in the condition of the ball.
England has outstanding fast bowlers, and so too does the Windies; therefore, seeing so many fast bowlers running up to the crease to bowl, add to the treat and I dare say with this sighting, the Kentucky Derby will have nothing over it — poetry in motion on the pitch, some will say calypso, come match date.
West Indies had won their previous test series against England in 2019 at home. But this time it is in England, the Windies team last won a series in England back in 1988 under the captaincy of Sir Viv Richards by a 4-0 margin.
If the Windies fast bowlers bowl well and their batsmen manage to score over 300 runs, one could safely conclude that an exciting match would be in the making.
Fast bowler Kemar Roach believes that the upcoming series against England is similar to the Ashes for the West Indies, and his team will try its best to defend the trophy they won last year at home.
England will be the favorites going into the match; however, they will miss the service of Joe Root. The inexperienced batting order is the only weakness of team England.
We all know that the world is suffering from a new plague — COVID-19 and the number of cases is increasing daily, but the show must go on.
Cricket fans have missed their cricket and will be very keen to watch this match.
It is going to be an exciting time and the watch parties are on.
Get the popcorn out, won’t you?
Follow CaribbeanCricinfo.com on Twitter and Instagram@CaribbeanCricinfo and on Facebook @CaribbeanCricinfo. Send us a message on WhatsApp at 646-874-7976 or Call us at 201-500-7715 email us at CaribbeanCricinfo@gmail.com