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Cricket is back … sort of! Rain is likely to delay the start of the first test between England and the West Indies

Cricket is back … sort of! Rain is likely to delay the start of the first England-West Indies test at Ageas Bowl as Ben Stokes prepares to lead the hosts in a game played in a biologically safe ‘bubble’

  • Early arrivals at the Ageas Bowl faced a wet and miserable scene
  • Rain can delay the start of the first test between England and the West Indies
  • But the forecast should improve and get drier as the day progresses
  • Cricket makes his welcome return on schedule decimated by Covid-19
  • The game is played in a biologically safe ‘bubble’ to minimize the risk of infection

Cricket fans have been eagerly awaiting some action all summer, but it seems like they should wait a little longer.

Early arrivals to the Ageas Bowl in Southampton for the first day of the first England-West Indies test were greeted with a dismal and depressing scene.

Nighttime rain left the outdoor field soaked, and the hoods in the center could very well remain in place as gloomy gray skies loomed above us.

Test Match Special producer Adam Mountford tweeted this photo of gray skies over the Ageas Bowl with a rainy forecast that could potentially delay the start of the Test Match

Test Match Special producer Adam Mountford tweeted this photo of gray skies over the Ageas Bowl with a rainy forecast that could potentially delay the start of the Test Match

It is likely that the start may be delayed at 11:00 am due to the wet weather, but the forecast should improve

It is likely that the start may be delayed at 11:00 am due to the wet weather, but the forecast should improve

It is likely that the start may be delayed at 11:00 am due to the wet weather, but the forecast should improve

The forecast for the ground shows that morning rain gives way to cloudy, but dry conditions

The forecast for the ground shows that morning rain gives way to cloudy, but dry conditions

The forecast for the ground shows that morning rain gives way to cloudy, but dry conditions

The game is scheduled to start at 11am, but a delay at the start seems inevitable, although the forecast should improve as the day progresses.

The Met Office forecast suggests that the rainy morning will give way to some cloudy but dry conditions before the wet stuff returns in the early evening.

So it is the mission of the ground crew and their machines to try to absorb the excess moisture and get the competition started.

Fortunately, the forecast for the rest of the five days is more positive, with sunshine and temperatures above 20C on weekends.

While the return of Test cricket – or even cricket in any form – is very welcome after the Covid-19 crisis, it will be very different.

The first test with the West Indies in the Ageas Bowl promises to be creepy with empty stands

The first test with the West Indies in the Ageas Bowl promises to be creepy with empty stands

The first test with the West Indies in the Ageas Bowl promises to be creepy with empty stands

Cricket's new standard was emphasized by this scoreboard message to keep hands clean

Cricket's new standard was emphasized by this scoreboard message to keep hands clean

Cricket’s new standard was emphasized by this scoreboard message to keep hands clean

Even interviews should be conducted remotely, as Stokes talks to TMS's Jonathan Agnew

Even interviews should be conducted remotely, as Stokes talks to TMS's Jonathan Agnew

Even interviews should be conducted remotely, as Stokes talks to TMS’s Jonathan Agnew

The stands on the Ageas Bowl will be empty with no spectators in a bio-secure arena to minimize the risk of coronavirus infection.

This series has been delayed since June, but given the circumstances it is amazing that it is played at all.

There have been months of careful planning to create a safe environment for the players, officials and all other attendees.

The English team has been living and training in Southampton for two weeks, with the Ageas Bowl benefiting from its own Hilton hotel.

Captain Ben Stokes takes a sharp low catch as England trains for Wednesday's first test

Captain Ben Stokes takes a sharp low catch as England trains for Wednesday's first test

Captain Ben Stokes takes a sharp low catch as England trains for Wednesday’s first test

Stokes will act as skipper with Joe Root away at the birth of his second child as England prepares to include the West Indies in the Ageas Bowl at Southampton

Stokes will act as skipper with Joe Root away at the birth of his second child as England prepares to include the West Indies in the Ageas Bowl at Southampton

Stokes will act as skipper with Joe Root away at the birth of his second child as England prepares to include the West Indies in the Ageas Bowl at Southampton

Joe Root left Stokes some advice when he temporarily passed the captain

Joe Root left Stokes some advice when he temporarily passed the captain

Joe Root left Stokes some advice when he temporarily passed the captain

The West Indies had a period of isolation at Old Trafford in Manchester, where the other two tests in the series will be played later this month, and two exhibition games.

Both referees will be English unlike neutral countries and some playing conditions have changed – for example, players are not allowed to apply saliva to the ball.

After regular captain Joe Root stepped out of the biosecure bubble to attend the birth of his second child, Ben Stokes will lead the home team.

West Indian coach Phil Simmons speaks with his team on Tuesday during their internet session

West Indian coach Phil Simmons speaks with his team on Tuesday during their internet session

West Indian coach Phil Simmons speaks with his team on Tuesday during their internet session

West Indian captain Jason Holder is taking part in a field exercise during Tuesday's session

West Indian captain Jason Holder is taking part in a field exercise during Tuesday's session

West Indian captain Jason Holder is taking part in a field exercise during Tuesday’s session

Stokes is determined to bear all captain's charges, including selection issues

Stokes is determined to bear all captain's charges, including selection issues

Stokes is determined to bear all captain’s charges, including selection issues

Stokes will be participating in a number of slip exercises on Tuesday, along with Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and coach Chris Read as a terrain man prepares the field

Stokes will be participating in a number of slip exercises on Tuesday, along with Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and coach Chris Read as a terrain man prepares the field

Stokes will be participating in a number of slip exercises on Tuesday, along with Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and coach Chris Read as a terrain man prepares the field

Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler (right) comes into practice as coach Chris Read bats

Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler (right) comes into practice as coach Chris Read bats

Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler (right) comes into practice as coach Chris Read bats

Stokes revealed that Root left him a handwritten note saying ‘do it your way’ at his locker on the eve of the match.

Stokes would like to be involved in the team selection process, no matter how difficult, but is forced to make a difficult choice about who makes up the bowling attack.

England’s two fastest bowlers, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, seem to be getting the nod for Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes, but confirmation won’t come until Wednesday morning.

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