The return of Test cricket is fast approaching!
England get their three-match Test series underway against the at the Ageas Bowl West Indies tomorrow under unusual circumstances.
There will be no fans inside the ground, no Barmy Army, and no Joe Root – who will miss the first Test to be at the birth of his second child.
Ben Stokes will take the captaincy in Rooty’s absence, with Jos Buttler stepping up as vice-captain, and the 13-man squad he will lead in the series opener was announced on Saturday.
The Windies arrive on English shores as possessors of the Wisden Trophy, having beaten Root’s men 2-1 on home turf in 2019.
Clearly, they are not a side to be underestimated and with that in mind, we’ve outlined five players to watch ahead of the series…
Hope has become a force in the shorter formats in recent years but he has had his struggles in the red-ball game.
A return to England, where he has played arguably the finest innings of his Test career, may help the batsman get back to his best.
Hope grabbed two centuries and was the top run-scorer in the Windies’ last Test series in England and having shown some promise in the warm-up games, will be keen to find form again this time around.
England know first hand just how dangerous Roach can be with the ball in his hand.
The figurehead of the Windies’ pace attack took 18 wickets against Root’s men during their tour of the Caribbean in 2018/19 and will be hoping to have a similar impact on this series.
The all-rounder has caused quite a stir with his performances in the Windies’ warm-up games.
The left-armer has just one Test appearance under his belt and would be something of a wildcard pick but he has certainly staked his claim over the last few weeks.
He could be one to watch.
The 26-year-old’s large frame is often what draws the attention but his quality as a player shouldn’t be underestimated.
Cornwall has taken 13 wickets in two Tests with his off-spin, to add to his 303 in 63 First Class matches, and can be destructive with the bat when he gets going.
The 23-year-old is arguably the most exciting talent in the Windies side and has the potential to tear through opposition batting line-ups.
The 6ft4ins fast bowler is absolutely rapid and has 25 Test scalps to his name already. He’ll be looking to claim a few more over the next month or so.
According to the ICC Test rankings, the Windies captain is the number one all-arounder world cricket – though the man standing across from him at the toss on Wednesday will have something to say about that.
In addition to his responsibilities as captain, Holder is likely to be a key man for the tourists with both bat and ball, though his recent form has been a little shaky.
The battle between him and Stokesy in the first Test looks set to be an enthralling one.