The entire cricket community had waited for the opening day of the ongoing first Test between England and West Indies in Southampton but rain played spoilsport, allowing only 82 minutes of action on Wednesday.
International cricket returned after the enforced break due to the Covid-19 pandemic with the 1st Test of the historic 3-match series. However, there was frustration throughout the day for cricket fans and players due to the multiple breaks caused by the wet weather in Southampton.
Only 106 balls were bowled as England reached 35 for 1 when Stumps was announced well past the scheduled closing time due to rain and bad light. Players took an early Tea after bad light interrupted play in the 2nd session but the situation did not improve at the Ageas Bowl.
Shannon Gabriel needed only 10 balls to pick up the 1st wicket in Test cricket after its return with a perfect in-dipper that saw the end of England opener, Dom Sibley, for naught. Gabriel along with Kemar Roach sustained the pressure but opener Rory Burns and Joe Denly managed to survive on a stop-and-start day.
Denly remained unbeaten on 14 while Burns got to 20 at the close of play.
The match was played under the ‘bio-secure environment’ under ICC’s new guidelines in the wake of the pandemic. There was an additional review for players, home umpires were officiating and players were asked to follow physical distancing guidelines.
‘Feels good to be back’
Shanon Gabriel conceded it was a frustrating day but said he was happy to return to action.
“It was a good delivery after coming back from almost a year off in test cricket. It feels good to be back,” Gabriel said, talking about the scalp of Sibley.
“It’s been a bit tough, coming off and on,” Gabriel said. “We just have to keep switched on when we come back on. It’s been a tough day but we’ve been doing well so far.”
Earlier in the day, stand-in captain Ben Stokes won the toss and opted to bat after taking a bold decision to drop veteran pacer Stuart Broad. England went in for extra pace as they picked both Mark Wood and Jofra Archer in the playing XI.
Plenty of on-field action at the Ageas Bowl on Wednesday
While the on-field action was scarce, there was plenty, off it on Wednesday.
Both England and West Indies players took a knee for 30 seconds in the lead up to the day’s play as the 2 sides showed combined support to the Black Lives Matter movement.
The West Indies players along with the 2 England openers led the gesture as players part of both sides took a knee after the toss that was delayed due to rain. The other members of the squad were spotted taking a knee from along the boundary line.
A minute’s silence was also observed to mark the victims of the virus and also former West Indies batsman Everton Weekes, who died last week.
Both England and West Indies players are sporting Black Lives Matter logo on their Test kits in Southampton.
Near blunder at the toss
West Indies captain Jason Holder’s muscle memory made him go for a handshake at the toss. England’s stand-in captain Ben Stokes was quick to realise it and avoided a handshake.
The presenter at the toss immediately pointed out that Stokes and Holder can’t shake hands due to the new social distancing rules. “Can’t do that Ben, social distancing and all that. Never mind, sanitise those hands,” the presenter said.
Brief Scores: England 35/1 (Burns 20*, Denly 14*, Gabriel 1/19) vs West Indies at Stumps on Day 1.