Cricket will be more than just a game when it makes its return on Wednesday at the Ageas Bowl when England plays the West Indies in the world’s first Test match since the start of March because of the coronavirus pandemic.
Much of the talk before the Test has been around the bio-bubble which has been created to serve as a safe environment for the stakeholders and also a lay the blueprint for future matches and tours.
Life in the bubble begins 🧪😷 pic.twitter.com/xwisWunmu4
— England Cricket (@englandcricket) June 25, 2020
“If you get one thing wrong, it might blow this whole ‘getting sport back onto the radar’ further back,” England stand-in captain Ben Stokes said on Tuesday in his eve-of-game news conference.
“I know everyone has been craving this from a player’s point of view,” he said before adding, “but also I think from a spectator’s and fan’s point of view,” he added.
When asked if there has been any word from Joe Root, Stokes candidly admitted, “I haven’t had much advice but there has been a lot of opinions flying around. The best message that I have received was when I got my photos done yesterday in the blazer. Rooty just left a message on the hanger which said: ‘Do it your way.’”
But that’s not all.
T-minus 3️⃣ days… pic.twitter.com/VVXSQG4wVU
— The Ageas Bowl (@TheAgeasBowl) July 5, 2020
There’s the message both the teams are willing to send about equality in the wake of the Black Lives Matter movement. A BLM logo will be on the collar of the test shirts worn by players from both teams and there is set to be a “gesture” made by the teams before the game.
For the visitors, the movement is a source of motivation on this tour.
“Not only has this been a period for us getting ready for a test match,” Stokes said, “it has also been great for us to have educational chats as a team around this and it has been really beneficial for a lot of our members.
“I feel as a team we have an opportunity to send a real powerful message and I am really excited as an individual, and the team is really excited, that we are able to be a part of that.”
— Windies Cricket (@windiescricket) July 7, 2020
Meanwhile, West Indies coach Phil Simmons believes the opening Test will be a battle between two all-rounder captains.
“I think that it’s going to be a toss-up between these two allrounders and hopefully Jason can do what’s necessary to get on top of Ben in this first Test,” Simmons told reporters on the eve of the opening Test.
“Ben is one of them who leads from the front. That’s been shown by all his exploits before in cricket, (so) we will have to make sure that we get on to him very early, because he likes to do what is necessary for his team.”
TRAINING DAY: The #MenInMaroon put in some WORK today! 💪🏾WI are finalizing preparations for the first test of the Sandals Tour of England 2020, starting on Wednesday! 🙌🏿#CricketIsBack #MenInMaroon #WIReady 🌴🏏 pic.twitter.com/ZPzYbzA05p
— Windies Cricket (@windiescricket) July 6, 2020
Cricket’s oldest format kicks off a very new era for the sport. One where there are no spectators at matches, one-way systems inside venues to maintain distancing, twice-weekly testing for coronavirus, and players not allowed out of their hotels.
TV viewers will have the choice of adding a so-called “Lord’s hum” during coverage, but there will be no artificial crowd noise in the ground or music between overs, ensuring an eerie silence once the match begins except for selective announcements over the public address system about things such as milestones or bowling changes.
The big screens around the venue will show key highlights, DRS and sponsor messages.
Not too long to go now! 🙌 pic.twitter.com/FxCveA743I
— The Ageas Bowl (@TheAgeasBowl) July 4, 2020
England and West Indies have played 157 Tests against each other. West Indies have won 57 of them and England have won 49, while 51 Tests have ended in a draw.
The West Indies has not won a Test series in England since 1988 but the team is the holder of the Wisden Trophy after a 2-1 victory in the Caribbean last year.
(With AP inputs)
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