Rain delays international cricket's return in England-West Indies Test


Southampton (United Kingdom) (AFP)

Rain delayed the start on Wednesday of the first Test between England and the West Indies at Southampton, the first international match since March.

The eagerly anticipated fixture marks the sport's global return from months of coronavirus-enforced lockdown.

But as the players warmed up on the outfield under grey skies, there was sufficient rain for the Ageas Bowl pitch to remain fully covered and prevent the toss taking place at 0930 GMT as scheduled.

No spectators will be allowed to attend the three-Test series, which concludes with two matches at Old Trafford.

Players and officials are staying at on-site hotels to stop the spread of COVID-19, with bowlers unable to use saliva to shine the ball as a health measure.

International travel restrictions mean that, for the first time since 2002, both on-field umpires came from one of the competing teams, with English officials Richard Kettleborough and Richard Illingworth in the middle.

Match referee Chris Broad could find himself presiding over a match involving his son Stuart if the England paceman is selected in the hosts' final XI.

But any disciplinary issues are set to be referred to a remote referee.

Ben Stokes will captain England for the first time, with regular skipper Joe Root missing the match because of the birth of his second child.

West Indies have not won a Test series in England since 1988 but they hold the Wisden Trophy after a 2-1 series win in the Caribbean last year.

Jason Holder's side have gone ahead with the tour even though Britain has the highest virus toll in Europe, with more than 44,000 deaths.