England vs West Indies -The first Test match of a delayed and strange summer finally gets underway in Southampton
The first Test of a three-match series between England and West Indies. It will take place at Hampshire’s Rose Bowl aka Ageas Bowl ground. That venue was selected because they have a hotel on-site, meaning that the fixture can take place in a bio-secure environment due, obviously, to concerns about coronavirus. It marks the start of a busy period for England: they have two more Tests against the West Indies in July, and then three against Pakistan straight after that.
When is it?
Wednesday 8 July.
What time does it start?
The game will start at 11am.
What TV channel is it on?
Sky Sports Main Event and Sky Sports Cricket from 10am.
What is the team news?
England have named a squad of 30 players as they try to take a look at as many players as possible, and check on the fitness of as many players as possible. There are fully 18 seam bowlers in that group, with coaching staff admitting that they will be looking to rotate throughout this packed summer.
ECB’s performance director Mo Bobat has said “our depth will get challenged” by a “pretty brutal schedule”.
However, England have confirmed that they will pick their strongest available XI for the first match of his delayed, strange summer. That will surely mean the old firm of James Anderson and Stuart Broad, but there is serious competition for places these days – and England, for the first time in many a year, could put out an attack of multiple genuine pace bowlers. Mark Wood, Jofra Archer and Ollie Stone are all 90mph-plus merchants and it is hoped that, for once, England might be able to fight fire with fire in the next Ashes as they rejoin battle with Pat Cummins, Mitchell Starc and co.
One who will miss out is captain Joe Root, who will need to self-isolate after his wife gives birth this week. Ben Stokes will take over the role in the meantime.
West Indies, meanwhile, have got their strongest pace attack for years – and they fancy their chances against England’s brittle top and middle-order batters.
What are they saying?
Stuart Broad addressed the unique experience of staying at the ground
“It is different being away from family and friends in the UK. It does feel a bit strange, and if players go through tricky times while in this biosecure environment – have a bad spell, have a bad day, have a bad week – you can’t escape the cricket at all mentally. If you nick off first ball, you’re then eating dinner overlooking the pitch that you’ve just nicked off on.
“We’ve got to make sure as a group of players that we don’t look too far ahead at future series, we get it right now. If we get this wrong in these six, seven weeks then we could lose these series against two very good teams.”
West Indies coach Phil Simmons on England’s inexperienced batting
“Having young players in their team can be a plus for us. A couple of them have an idea of what it is like at this level, but it is a hard thing coming into Test cricket – even after two or three games it is still difficult. We are going to try and put as much pressure on the younger players as we can.
“We’ve beaten England at home, and want to continue that trend. But we also want our own little piece of history. The guys are well and truly up for the fight here.”
What are the odds?
- England to win the first Test 2/7
- West Indies to win the first Test 11/2
- Draw 7/1
What’s our prediction?
Closer than those odds would suggest? England is a fine side in their own conditions but who knows which team will respond better to the weird empty ground? West Indies, after all, are more used to playing Tests in front of small crowds. Both sides have genuine pace, both sides have flimsy batting, and it could well be that one decent inning is enough for either team in what has the feeling of a three-day or four-day encounter, weather notwithstanding. All in all, England should be good enough.