Cricket fans have waited eagerly all summer for some action – and they’ll have to wait a little bit longer.
Early arrivals at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton for the first day of the first Test between England and West Indies were greeted with a dreary and depressing scene.
Overnight rain left the outfield sodden and the covers in the middle could remain very much in situ as gloomy grey skies loomed overhead.
And the poor weather led to the toss, scheduled for 10.30am, being delayed.
England’s official Twitter account posted this picture of a grey and dreary Ageas Bowl after overnight rain which has delayed the start of the first Test against West Indies
They tried to see the funny side as the much delayed season looked set to be delayed further
It’s likely the 11am start could be delayed by the wet weather but the forecast should improve
The forecast for the ground shows morning rain giving way to overcast, but dry, conditions
Play was scheduled to get underway at 11am but a delay to the start was pretty much inevitable after overnight rain.
However, at least the two teams were able to get onto the pitch and go through their warm-ups in anticipation of whatever action can unfold on the first day.
The Met Office forecast suggests the rainy morning will give way to some overcast, but dry, conditions before the wet stuff returns in the early evening.
So it’ll be the mission of the groundstaff and their machinery to try and soak up the excess moisture and get the match started.
Fortunately the forecast for the remainder of the five days is more positive, with sunshine and temperatures in excess of 20C at the weekend.
While the return of Test cricket – or indeed cricket of any form – is very much welcome after the Covid-19 crisis, things will be very different.
The first Test with West Indies at the Ageas Bowl promises to be eerie with the stands empty
Cricket’s new normal was emphasised by this scoreboard message to keep hands clean
Even interviews have to be conducted at a distance as Stokes talks to Jonathan Agnew of TMS
The stands at the Ageas Bowl will be empty with no spectators present in what is a bio-secure arena to minimise the risk of coronavirus infection.
This series has been delayed from June but given the circumstances it’s miraculous it is being played at all.
Months of careful planning have gone into creating a secure environment for the players, officials and everyone else in attendance.
The England team have been living and training in Southampton for two weeks, with the Ageas Bowl having the advantage of an on-site Hilton hotel.
Ben Stokes will captain England in the absence of Joe Root for the first Test in Southampton
Captain Ben Stokes takes a sharp low catch as England train ahead of Wednesday’s first Test
Stokes will stand in as skipper with Joe Root away at the birth of his second child as England prepare to take on West Indies at the Ageas Bowl near Southampton
Joe Root left Stokes some words of advice as he passed over the captaincy temporarily
West Indies had a period of isolation at Old Trafford in Manchester, where the other two Tests in the series will be played later this month, and two practice matches.
Both umpires will be English as opposed to from neutral countries and some of the playing conditions have been altered – for example, players will not be allowed to apply saliva to the ball.
After regular England captain Joe Root stepped out of the biosecure ‘bubble’ to attend the birth of his second child, Ben Stokes will lead the home side.
West Indies coach Phil Simmons speaks to his squad during their net session on Tuesday
West Indies captain Jason Holder takes part in a fielding drill during Tuesday’s session
Stokes has been determined to shoulder all the captaincy burdens – including selection issues
Stokes takes part in some slip fielding drills on Tuesday along with Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley and coach Chris Read as a groundsman prepares the pitch
Wicketkeeper Jos Buttler (right) gets in some practice as coach Chris Read bats
Stokes revealed that Root left him a handwritten note saying ‘do it your way’ by his locker on the eve of the match.
Keen to be involved in the team selection process, however difficult, Stokes has been forced into a tough choice over who forms the bowling attack.
It appears that England’s two quickest bowlers, Jofra Archer and Mark Wood, will be given the nod ahead of Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes but confirmation will only come on Wednesday morning.