One-hundred-and-seventeen days after the last match of international cricket was played, the elite game returns as England hosts the West Indies in the first of three Tests starting on Wednesday 8pm AEST.

That’s if England’s notorious weather is ready to play ball. The toss has been delayed thanks to early morning showers.

England’s Met Office is forecasting a 50 per cent chance of rain throughout the first session before the weather clears in the afternoon.

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England excited to play

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England will be without captain Joe Root for the match, with the star batsman attending the birth of his second child. In his place, all-rounder Ben Stokes will captain the team for the first time.

Stokes’ opposite number, Jason Holder, is arguably the lone player in Test cricket who rivals him as the sport’s greatest all-rounder.

Since 2018 Holder has averaged 14.22 with the ball and 42.50 with the bat compared to Stokes’ 30.38 and 37.83 in the same period.

The West Indies won the last series the two teams played 2-1, but they still go into the campaign as underdogs given it is in England.

West Indies great Brian Lara says the Caribbean side must try and beat “overwhelming favourites” England in four days because their batting is not strong enough to last five days.

The three-Test series, which marks the return of international cricket after the coronavirus shutdown, starts on Wednesday in Southampton behind closed doors.

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Ben Stokes shows no mercy

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Holder’s tourists boast a powerful pace attack but their batsmen have struggled to post challenging totals in recent years.

“They have to be able to pounce immediately,” Lara said in comments on BBC Sport. “England are not beaten very easily at home and are overwhelming favourites.” Lara, who scored a record 11,953 runs for West Indies in 131 Tests, said it was vital the tourists adapted to English conditions quickly.

“They have to hit the road running and stamp their authority on England,” said the 51-year-old.

“I don’t think they can last five days, so they have to take these games in four days. They have to establish a lead and keep it.”

West Indies, who beat England 2-1 in the Caribbean last year, have not won a series in England since 1988.

“It’s going to be a series that’s watched all around the world and everybody is hoping to see a competitive series,” said Lara, who scored 34 Test centuries.

“It would mean a lot to all West Indians if they could win.

“If they play good cricket on the first day of the Test series, show they have the mettle to perform against England, that’s the key.” The second and third Tests will be played at Old Trafford, in Manchester, also in bio-secure environments./



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