Southampton, United Kingdom (July 8): All eyes were glued on traditional rivals England and the West Indies as cricket returned after 117 days in a Covid-19 world. Cricket, inevitably, was no longer the same with the health and safety of the players given the primary concern.
Rain deterred the play on the opening day of the first of three match Test series at the 'bio-bubble' secured Rose Bowl but a strong message was sent out during the course of action.
England and the West Indies joined hands to take a knee, in a sight to behold, on the opening day to spread a strong message against racism. In the process, the teams only became the first to return to international cricket after a brief hiatus but also the leading sides to show support for the 'Black Lives Matter' movement.
All this took place after the toss, where two top ranked all-rounders in Test cricket walked out to the center. One was in business as usual, for the other was standing-in as a captain.
England captain Ben Stokes called it correctly and opted to bat but in a light-hearted moment he almost shook hands with Jason Holder, going against the social distancing norms, marking a first glitch in the COVID-19 world. One would hope such things from Stokes knowing the kind of character he is!
As play began, it looked like a perfect call from Stokes, who had last captained Durham with fast bowler Mark Wood in his side then too as the ball was not doing much and the pitch looked dry underneath.
However, the West Indies bowlers seemed to have adapted with the 'no saliva' rule with ease as it looked like they never needed it. The visitors also seemed to be helped on by the Dukes ball which doesn't lose its shape early and assists the bowlers over a longer course of time.
Kemar Roach opened the bowling with Rory Burns taking guard. Roach began with a maiden over while his new ball partner Shannon Gabriel struck with a ball nipping back in to Dominic Sibley.
But rain interrupted the play again at the end of three overs with the scoreboard reading 1/1 for the home team.
After a halt, the match resumed, with new man Joe Denly at the crease. Denly (14 not out) and Burns (20 not out) caressed the West Indies bowlers well notching up an unbeatable stand of 35 runs as bad light stopped play.
Rain returned again as an early Tea was taken and with no further play possible umpires called it a day.
It was quite an eventful day marking the return of cricket with rain in England seemingly not being able to maintain social distancing from the game.
On Thursday, showers are expected to play spoilsport again.