England opener Dom Sibley was the only batsman out as international cricket returned for the first time since March
England and West Indies were left frustrated as rain restricted play on the first day of international cricket to be played in a bio-secure environment to just 17.4 overs.
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The hosts reached 35-1 behind closed doors at the Ageas Bowl, losing Dominic Sibley for a duck, as the first #raisethebat Test began fitfully following the easing of the coronavirus lockdown.
Rarely can such an eagerly-awaited day have proved so exasperating as bad weather delayed the start of play until 2pm before forcing two further interruptions inside the first five overs.
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But this was also a day for perspective.
Before a ball was bowled the players lined up in silence around the pitch in honour of those who have died during the COVID-19 pandemic – England’s players having already paid tribute to key workers by wearing the names of doctors, nurses, teachers and carers on their training shirts.
West Indies legend Sir Everton Weekes, who passed away aged 95 last week, was also remembered in a mark of respect.
Once in their positions the teams and officials, as well as the backroom staff on the boundary edge, took a knee in a show of solidarity for the Black Lives Matter movement – the West Indies players also raising a black-gloved right fist.
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Some 163 days after their last Test, England lost their first wicket after 10 balls when Sibley offered no shot to a delivery from Shannon Gabriel that angled in and rattled his off-stump.
It was scarcely the start that Ben Stokes, standing in for Joe Root while the Yorkshireman adjusted at home to life as a dad of two, had hoped for after winning the toss.
His decision to bat first on a dry-looking pitch raised fewer eyebrows than England’s selection of Jofra Archer and Mark Wood alongside James Anderson ahead of Stuart Broad – Wood himself admitting he was “a bit shocked” to be picked ahead of the Nottinghamshire seamer, who is missing his first home Test since 2012.
Rory Burns (20no) and Joe Denly (14no) rallied England before bad light, then yet more rain, brought a third and final stoppage at 4.27pm.
Of all England batsmen to have played 25 Test innings, only Sir Jack Hobbs (86.27 per cent) has a better conversion rate of getting to double-figures than Denly and the Kent batsman kept pace after pulling Gabriel for an emphatic four through mid-on.
Stuart Broad walks around the ground after being left out of the first #raisethebat Test
The paceman nearly had his revenge in the same over – Denly edging wide of third slip on the drive – before Burns cashed in on an Alzarri Joseph loosener and picked up four more through backward point in the bowler’s next over.
Umpires Richard Illingworth and Richard Kettleborough, the first home umpires to stand in a Test in England since 2002, were forced to step in again as conditions deteriorated before play was officially abandoned at 6.11pm.
Watch day two of the first #raisethebat Test between England and West Indies live on Sky Sports Cricket from 10.30am on Thursday.
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