Venue: Old Trafford, Manchester
Date: Thursday, July 16, 2020 – Monday, July 20, 200
The revised tour schedule saw the Windies arrive in the UK in late June for a three Test match series to be played in July. This was instead of the original plans for matches to be played in May and June. Covid-19 restrictions also meant that the tourists’ warmup matches were intra-squad contests with the teams named after captains Kraigg Braithwaite and Jason Holder. England had a similar match for their sole warmup contest, with Team Buttler and Team Stokes playing to a draw over the course of three days.
The opening Test – and the first competitive cricket for either team in a long time – saw England win the toss and elect to bat in the match taking place at the Rose Bowl in Southampton. A disappointing first innings score of just 204 amongst the rain on day 1 put England in a tricky position for the rest of the Test. This was compounded by a score of 318 from the Windies’ first innings, with Braithwaite top-scoring with 65.
A score of 313 in their second innings – and a knock of 76 from Zak Crawley to lead the way – gave England a glimmer of hope, but despite the bowling of Jofra Archer who posted numbers of 3/45 in 17 overs, the Windies reached the total needed with four wickets to spare.
Changes were expected in the England team following the first Test defeat and they have been made. Joe Denly is the big loser here – he went for just 18 and 29 in the first Test – as he has been dropped and replaced by captain Joe Root who missed the first Test following the birth of his second child. Denly has averaged under 30 runs in 15 matches for England.
Fast bowlers James Anderson and Mark Wood have also been left out, though this is more of a rotation policy within the squad as England have to play six Tests in the span of seven weeks this summer. Stuart Broad is likely to be one of the beneficiaries of this load management system in this match. The fact that both players have been listed as rested as opposed to being lumped in with the reserves says everything about their position within the squad.
The Windies will once again rely on their pace attack here as everyone’s second favorite team looks to upset the odds and claim a series victory with a Test to spare. If the wicket looks like it will favour something a little different in the bowling department then Rahkeem Cornwall will come into the side, but if it is all pace then expect the likes of Shannon Gabriel to perform again while they will look got a little more from the usually dominant Kemar Roach.
Their batting is adequate enough to keep up with the high-level bowling, so this will be anything but a stroll in the Manchester sunshine – or rain – for the hosts.
England are the heavy, heavy favourites at 0.40 with BetXChange. This is a price I simply wouldn’t touch – even though I do expect the hosts to win and defend home soil here. The Windies at 4.00 have to be worth a punt purely on the basis that the teams are pretty close in terms of talent right now and even more so without the home fans in the ground to cheer England on.