International cricket finally returns after months of suspension, with West Indies taking on England in the first of three Tests, before Pakistan travel to England for another series. While many ICC regulated protocols have been put in place, fans will still be excited to look at the development of the sport post the global pandemic.
The contest will see a first for many of those players, with West Indies bringing their youngest Test team ever for the tour of England. The team will be buoyed by the prospects of their challenge, having beaten England back at home in 2019. The onus of retaining the trophy for the first time since 1998 lies on the young guns as well as the following players:
Shai Hope has been one of the most dependable batsmen for West Indies on many occasions. During his last tour of England in 2017, Hope scored a century in both innings against England as the Windies went on to seal an important five-wicket victory in the second Test to level the series.
The Windies batsmen looked shaky during the practice matches and Hope will need to be at his usual best from the get-go against the likes of James Anderson and Stuart Broad in order to ensure his side gets a favourable result in the series.
Alzarri Joseph is a rising star in the West Indian bowling line-up and has complemented the senior bowlers quite well. In the nine Tests that he has played, he has picked up 25 wickets at an economy rate of 3.23 runs per over. He was part of the squad that last beat England in the Wisden Trophy, picking up crucial wickets for the Windies.
He has played four of his nine Tests against England but bowled less than 90 overs across seven innings, which makes the Windies pacer somewhat of a mystery factor to the English batsmen.
One of the most dependable bowlers for West Indies, Kemar Roach has been a mainstay in the side for the last few years. In 56 Tests for the Windies, he has picked up 193 wickets at an economy rate of 3.13. He will need to be at his best on England's slow pitches as well, and his partnership with Shannon Gabriel will be crucial to the Windies' bowling line-up.
Meanwhile, Joe Root is not a part of the first Test, with the captaincy falling into the lap of Ben Stokes. England played their last Test back in January and will be buoyed by the return of a few of their injured players. They have a bag of experience in their squad, with the likes of Rory Burns and Dominic Sibley, as well as young talents like Sam Curran and Zak Crawley. However, the onus for their first victory since the global pandemic will fall on the following players:
Ben Stokes has established himself as a leader in the English dressing room since his heroics in the 2019 ICC Men’s World Cup on home soil. He will be raring to prove his mettle as a skipper against the Windies, and the onus to command the batting lineup in case of a collapse falls on the English all-rounder. Moreover, he will have to do the same for the bowling unit on Anderson and Broad and hope to churn out a victory for his side in the absence of Joe Root.
Ollie Pope is one of the youngsters in the squad, and although he has just seven Tests under his belt, his prowess against short bowling makes him a dangerous unit in the English batting line-up. His record against short balls stands at 67 runs off the 54 while being dismissed only once. He also faced the likes of Ben Stokes and Jamie Overton on the final day of their warm-up match but came out unscathed.
Still only 25, Jofra Archer is already a world-cup winner with England. Although it seems like he has been around the scene for a while, he has made only seven Test appearances for England. However, during this time, he has picked up 30 wickets and commands a strong economy-rate of 3 RPO. He will be key to the England bowling unit, having already established himself as the best alternative to Anderson and Broad should the senior pair fail to perform.
Feature image courtesy: AFP / Randy Brooks
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