The England Test team will get back in action on July 8 against the West Indies in a bio-secure environment. The series, which will be held behind closed doors, will mark the return of cricket after a four-month hiatus due to the coronavirus pandemic.
Ahead of the forced suspension in March, England looked like a team getting back its feet in Test cricket. Post the success in the 2019 World Cup, England went on to draw the 2019 Ashes 2-2.
Thereafter, they went on to beat South Africa 3-1 away from home. Next up for Joe Root & Co. were Sri Lanka.
However, the tour got called-off even before a ball could be bowled due to the pandemic.
The summer is where England need to get back into their groove with plenty of action lined up.
With new set of rules and protocols, cricket will not be the same in empty stadiums, but the action must go on and looking at European club level football, England can perhaps take a cue and prepare accordingly.
The English summer of 2020 is crucial for England Test team for a number reasons.
An eye on ICC Test Championship
First, with two home Test series against West Indies and Pakistan there lies an opportunity for England to move up in the ICC Test Championship rankings, even top the rankings.
At the moment, Joe Root’s side is fourth with 146 points, after five wins from nine matches. A clean sweep against the touring West Indies can give Root’s men all 120 points, which could see them rise up to third, leaving behind New Zealand in the process.
And if the English Test team can earn another 120 points up for grabs against Pakistan, they can replace India from its perch at the top of the rankings.
For the above-mentioned to happen, England will have to carry on their performance at home.
Continue with the performance at home
England can look back and be reasonably satisfied with their performances in Tests at home.
The 2-2 Ashes result was a real spark in 2019. Prior to that, the 4-1 drubbing of India in 2018 must have been heartening.
England dominated the show and gave India no space.
The last time West Indies visited England was in 2017. The Three Lions got the job done by a 2-1 margin.
The same year, saw England trounced South Africa 3-1 at home prior to the visit of West Indies.
Root will be wary of Pakistan though, given the Asian side mustered two successive draws in Test series in 2016 and 2018 respectively. Sri Lanka too had visited England in 2016 and were blanked 2-0.
Therefore, England will go into the summer being more confident in themselves given the results since 2016.
They are at home and match-winners like Ben Stokes, who has been performing out of his skin in last couple of years, makes them a formidable team.
Both West Indies and Pakistan will test England with a heavy pace attack and Root here must lead the line to thwart the opposition.
Root has played 48 Test matches at home with 4,124 runs at an average of 51.55. He has 11 hundreds and 23 fifties under his belt.
England will also have to use their pace-bowlers well this summer. The forced break in cricket is expected to have an impact on fitness and flexibility of the bowlers.
Balance the work load of bowlers
Recently, England’s leading seamer James Anderson backed the idea of rotating the pacers to maintain the flexibility when cricket resumes. The pacer, who is set to return said after no cricket of late, playing three Tests in quick succession will test the bowlers. That’s where balancing the workload will come into play.
”Obviously there are concerns about the fact we are not going to have had any competitive cricket before that first Test match and then we’ve got three Test matches in quick succession,” he told Sky Sports.
“So there are obviously things that we need to look at ahead of that in terms of workloads and whether we play all three as bowlers or whether we rotate.”
Anderson’s return is a big bonus for England.
The right-arm pacer has recovered from the rib injury which forced him to miss the final two Tests on England’s tour of South Africa at the start of the year.
Besides Anderson, the likes of Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Chris Woakes, Sam Curran and Mark Wood have what it takes to demolish any batting unit in the world.
What England will have to do here is rotate the pacers well and keep them fresh and ready.
Set an example with bio-secure cricket
To get back cricket after months of suspension will be massive for fans globally. People who love Test cricket, will get to witness two successive Test series on their television sets.
Yes, fans won’t be present at stadiums, however, the start behind closed doors will have its own significance.
For all of the above to happen, England’s experiment with bio-secure environment must be successful.
And if the experiment is successful, it could ensure return of cricket in a world plagued by Covid-19 pandemic.
Earlier, England announced a 30-member training squad for the series against West Indies. Here we look at the same.
Moeen Ali, James Anderson, Jofra Archer, Jonathan Bairstow, Dominic Bess, James Bracey, Stuart Broad, Rory Burns, Jos Buttler, Zak Crawley, Sam Curran, Joe Denly, Ben Foakes, Lewis Gregory, Keaton Jennings, Dan Lawrence, Jack Leach, Saqib Mahmood, Craig Overton, Jamie Overton, Matthew Parkinson, Ollie Pope, Ollie Robinson, Joe Root, Dom Sibley, Ben Stokes, Olly Stone, Amar Virdi, Chris Woakes, Mark Wood.
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