Southampton, July 7: When the players of England and West Indies walk out on to the Ageas Bowl pitch on Wednesday (July 8) it will be a landmark moment for international cricket after a 117-day hiatus. It will also be a milestone in the career of England's talisman Ben Stokes as he captains the side for the first time.
The circumstances will be surreal with the COVID-19 pandemic meaning no fans will be present in the bio-secure environment - the only sounds being the thump of leather on willow, the chit-chat between the players and some piped-in crowd effects.
Once the strangeness of the 'new-normal' sinks in, however, an intriguing series looks on the cards between the sides ranked fourth and eighth on the ICC's Test list. With England captain Joe Root missing for the birth of his second child, Stokes will get to pit himself against West Indies counterpart Jason Holder.
Holder, embarking on his 33rd Test as captain, is first on the ICC's all-rounder rankings while Stokes is second. Both have similar problems to solve, namely fragile batting line-ups that could be at the mercy of top-class bowling attacks.
Live telecast and Live Streaming
The first Test between England and West Indies will be shown live on Sony Sports Networks from 3.30 PM IST and live streaming will be on SONYLiv.
England: Ben Stokes (Captain), Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Joe Denly, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (Wicketkeeper), Dom Bess, Jofra Archer, Mark Wood, James Anderson.
West Indies: Jason Holder (Captain), Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shai Hope, Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Jermaine Blackwood, Shane Dowrich (Wicketkeeper), Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel.
England have not lost a Test series at home since 2013 and have not lost a series to the West Indies at home since 1988. West Indies had beaten England in 2019 at home to regain John Wisden Trophy but the home side is firm favourite.