England team captain Ben Stokes (right) speaks with coach Chris Silverwood at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton. AP
Following a four-month long hiatus put forward by coronavirus pandemic, cricket is all-set to resume with England taking on West Indies in a three-Test #raisethebat series starting on Wednesday.
All eyes will be on all-rounders Ben Stokes and Jason Holder in Southampton as they will lead their respective teams on the pitch at Ageas Bowl to mark the beginning of this historic series.
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This will be the first time when international cricket will be played with new set of changed rules put forward by International Cricket Council (ICC) looking at the virus threat.
Bowlers won't be able to use saliva on match balls, players will have to refrain from celebrating together and the stadium will be devoid of fans.
The other big change for this clash will be Stokes wearing the armband in place of regular Test skipper Joe Root, who left the bio-secure bubble and returned to Sheffield for the birth of his second child.
"The fantastic stats he (Root) has...it's going to be a bit of an advantage for us. He is one that keeps England batting together," West Indies pacer Kemar Roach had said during a video conference leading to the first match.
"He has done fantastic for the last couple of years. But also it is a bit of a disadvantage as there are some new guys coming in that we have to work out and see what their weaknesses are.
"So it goes 50-50 I can say but as I said once we hit our straps and put the ball in the right area, we stand a very good chance."
West Indies had famously beaten England 2-1 during the previous series between the two sides that was played in the Carribbean Islands.
A draw in the series would be enough for them to retain the Wisden trophy. But the stumbling block for the visitors is that they haven't beaten England in England since the tour of 1988.
"They are a threat, especially the bowling. With Shannon Gabriel alongside Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph and Holder, nobody is going to get easy runs," former England captain Nasser Hussain told Daily Mail, warning the hosts against taking Windies lightly despite their good home record.
"But the batting looks flimsy with no Darren Bravo or Shimron Hetmyer. Shai Hope and Kraigg Brathwaite will have to repeat their Headingley form of last time.
"England are very difficult to beat at home and West Indies haven't won here for a long time, so I'm going for an England win -- but you'd be a fool to write off West Indies because they thrive on being written off."
The two set of teams will also show their support for the 'Black Lives Matter' movement by wearing a logo on their shirts. The emblem was designed by Alisha Hosannah, the partner of Troy Deeney, professional footballer and captain of Premier League side Watford Football Club.
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The England selectors have big decisions to make after again losing the game with the bat rather than the ball despite the controversial omission of Stuart Broad.
Star batsman Root missed England's four-wicket defeat at Southampton in international cricket's return from lockdown last week after attending the birth of his second child.
Given the team is prone to inexplicable batting collapses, Pakistan roped in former captain Younis to help their batsmen for the three-test series beginning in Manchester on Wednesday.
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