Windies arrival in England huge step forward for cricket

West Indies captain Jason Holder said international cricket will take a “huge step forward” following the coronavirus shutdown as his team arrived on Tuesday for a Test series in England.

Fans who have had to make do with months of television repeats can now look forward to the real thing again, with England captain Joe Root saying of the West Indies’ decision to tour: “It must be extremely scary and I think the whole cricketing world will be grateful to see some cricket again.”

The three-match contest was originally meant to be played in June but will now start on July 8 instead because of the COVID-19 pandemic.

“This is a huge step forward in cricket and in sports in general as we travel over to England for this series,” said Holder.

“A lot has gone into the preparations for what will be a new phase in the game.”

But rather than matches before crowds at The Oval, Edgbaston and Lord’s, a now back-to-back series will take place behind closed doors at the more ‘bio-secure’ Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford.

Whereas players usually spend evenings during a Test away from the ground, they will now instead find themselves in a protective bubble at two venues which both have onsite hotels.

Southampton’s Ageas Bowl will stage the series opener from July 8, with the next two Tests at Old Trafford.

All the West Indies players have tested negative for the virus, although they will be retested when they arrive in Manchester.

Health measures, including a ban on applying saliva to the ball set to be rubber-stamped at an International Cricket Council meeting on Wednesday, will be in place.

“Our main objective is to deliver a safe environment for all stakeholders,” said England and Wales Cricket Board events director Steve Elworthy. — AFP

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