Cricket bat (Photo by Ryan Pierse/Getty Images)
England captain Ben Stokes decided to bat in the first Test against the West Indies at Southampton on Wednesday as international cricket resumed after the coronavirus lockdown.
Stokes was leading England for the first time, with regular captain Joe Root missing the match to attend the birth of his second child.
For the first match of the three-Test series, England left out veteran paceman Stuart Broad, their second most successful Test bowler behind James Anderson who did start, as well as Chris Woakes.
It was the first time Broad had missed a home Test since 2012, with England deciding to pair express fast bowlers Jofra Archer, born in Barbados, and Mark Wood for the first time since the Archer’s Test debut last year.
“Very, very tough decision with Broad and Woakes but we feel with Woody and Jofra’s pace it adds another dimension,” said Stokes.
“There was a lot of disappointment around but they took it like champions.”
West Indies omitted specialist spinner Rakheem Cornwall, with batsman Roston Chase to provide some slow bowling in support of a four-man pace attack of Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel, Alzarri Joseph and captain Jason Holder.
“Overhead conditions suggest we could make use of it,” said Holder.
“We’ve gone with four quicks and Roston Chase for a spin option. Discipline is the name of the game.”
No spectators are allowed at the three-Test series, which concludes with two matches at Old Trafford.
Players and officials are staying at on-site hotels to stop the spread of COVID-19. Bowlers are not allowed to use saliva to shine the ball.
International travel restrictions mean that, for the first time since 2002, both on-field umpires came from the host nation with England’s Richard Kettleborough and Richard Ilingworth in the middle.
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.
They have gone ahead with the tour even though Britain has the highest virus toll in Europe, with more than 44,000 deaths.
England: Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Joe Denly, Zak Crawley, Ben Stokes (captain), Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wicketkeeper), Dom Bess, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, James Anderson
West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shai Hope, Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Jermaine Blackwood, Jason Holder (captain), Shane Dowrich (wicketkeeper), Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel
Umpires: Richard Kettleborough, Richard Illingworth
TV umpire: Michael Gough (ENG)
Match referee: Chris Broad (ENG)