England's Rory Burns wary of West Indies
England batsman Rory Burns believes the West Indies will give the hosts a 'stiff test' come next month's eagerly anticipated series.
The three matches, still subject to final clearance from the British government, are set to mark the return of Test match cricket as the sport emerges from months of lockdown caused by the global pandemic.
Surrey opener Burns will be looking to regain his place at the top of the order after being sidelined since January with ankle ligament damage suffered during a warm-up game of football in Cape Town.
The 29-year-old left-hander knows better than most not to underestimate the West Indies, having been a Test fledgeling when England lost 2-1 in the Caribbean in 2018.
"The last time we played them, they won. They're certainly no slouches," Burns told Sky's Cricket Show.
"Their bowling attack caused us a lot of problems -- they're very skilful and have got some pace," added Burns, who averaged a modest 24.16 as the West Indies regained the Wisden Trophy.
"There's a lot of good cricketers there and think it's going to be a stiff test no matter what."
The West Indies are due to arrive in England via a charter flight on Tuesday, with a 25-man squad comprising 14 frontline players and 11 designated reserves.
Of those originally selected, only batsmen Darren Bravo and Shimron Hetmyer, together with fast-bowling all-rounder Keemo Paul, have decided not to travel because of COVID-19.
'Minds at ease'
But Burns said he and his team-mates had been reassured by the England and Wales Cricket Board's plan to create a 'bio-secure' bubble at both the Ageas Bowl, which stages the series opener from July 8, and Emirates Old Trafford, the venue for the second and third Tests.
"People's minds can run away with themselves," Burns said.
"What might it look like? What risk factors are there? But it's been very clear in the messaging we've had, in terms of putting minds at ease.
"It's been mitigated by the explanations we've had, which has been really positive."
ECB special projects director Steve Elworthy revealed both sides would spend more than a week together at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton as they completed their preparations for the first Test.
"England are looking to move in to the Ageas in and around the back end of June in preparing towards the Test match," he said.
"When the West Indies come out of isolation at Old Trafford (where the tourists will spend their initial 14-day quarantine) they will be brought inside the Ageas for some time too.
"It's an incredible facility, with a full-size training ground next to the main ground. We wanted them to be able to train, practice and prepare for the Test so having two full grounds available was key."
Lancashire, having made their Old Trafford base available for international duty, are planning to use Aigburth in Liverpool as a main home ground should a county season delayed until August at the earliest get going.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Peter Parks