England vs West Indies: Test cricket is back but how will it be different amid Covid-19? All you need to know
Here is the kicker - Test cricket is back! Nearly four months after the world of cricket came to a halt due to the ongoing Covid-19 pandemic, cricket is set to finally make a return as England take on West Indies in the first Test in Southampton starting from Wednesday. This will be the first Test that will be played amid the global pandemic, and the newly interim regulation changes approved by ICC to maximise the safety of players and officials will be implemented.
It means that there will be a few changes on how the things proceed at the Ageas Bowl in the Test match, with new rules in place. So, what can fans expect. Here is everything you need to know:
No saliva on the ball
One of the most debated new rules amid Covid-19 pandemic has been to not allow bowlers to apply saliva to soften the grip on the ball. Bowlers are used to doing so since they start their careers, and this new rule would require quite a fair bit of time for the players to get adjusted to, and it will also be difficult for the bowlers to soften the ball.The ICC has marked an adjustment period for bowlers and said that there will be “leniency” early on regarding the rule. The rules state that each team can receive up to two warnings per innings before they will be incurred a five-run penalty to the batting team. The players, though, are allowed to use sweat to keep the shine on the ball.
No fans allowed
Firstly, as we all know there will be no fans in the stadium. It is though, expected that crowds noise will be added to the match as the contest plays out, for television viewers. As part of the social distancing measures, a separate Player Zone has been set up for the two captains Ben Stokes, Jason Holder and the members of their teams to speaks to journalists as the game progresses.
The ICC has also made it mandatory that the teams will be allowed to make a substitution in the match for any player who is showing signs of the novel coronavirus during the five-day contest. Much like the concussion replacements rule, the teams can make a like-for-like swap between any players who appears to be inflicted with the virus.
All three Test matches will be played at bio-secure venues. The first Test will be played at The Ageas Bowl in Southampton, after which the teams will travel to Old Trafford for the remaining two games. The players and officials are required to stay at the on-site hotels at each ground. All the players and officials and staff members from both the teams will also be screened daily for symptoms and regularly tested for COVID-19 throughout the match. The bio-secure grounds have been divided into designated zones to keep the two teams, match officials, ground staff and the media separate. The movement between the zones will also be strictly limited.
The ICC have also temporarily removed the restriction to appoint neutral officials for a Test match or an ODI, which means after a span of nearly 19 years, an Englishman will be umpiring an international match in England. It means the umpiring team will consist of all Englishmen - Richard Illingworth, Richard Kettleborough, Michael Gough, Alex Wharf and David Millns are expected to be in different roles throughout the three-match series.
Additional DRS reviews per innings
Since there is a chance of more inexperienced umpires standing in international matches in the next few months, the ICC has deemed it necessary to allow teams an additional DRS review per each innings. This means teams will now have three unsuccessful DRS reviews instead of two in each innings of a Test, while both batting and bowling.