West Indies mean business

Test cricket returns with the first post-pandemic series this month, when England host a three-match series against the West Indies.

The Windies flew to the UK on 9 June, where they are scheduled to play three Tests within what’s being called a “bio-secure bubble”.

West Indies captain, Jason Holder spoke about the flights from the Caribbean to England:

The flight over was quite smooth. We assembled in Antigua, waited in the VIP lounge and then boarded the flight to Manchester.

The whole procedure and protocol has been great. The guys are safe – we were tested prior to coming over to the UK and we’ve been tested on arrival in the UK.

The three Test matches will be played at two grounds, the Ageas Bowl in Southampton and Old Trafford, Manchester. The venues were chosen as they are both Test-standard cricket grounds, but have the added advantage of a world-class hotel and meeting complex attached.

The series starts on 8 July, with the First Test at the Ageas Bowl, where players, umpires, officials and media will be making use of the on-site Hilton hotel.

Hilton at The Ageas Bowl is a stunning 171-bedroom hotel, located at the picture-perfect home of Hampshire Cricket.

The property boasts the luxury eforea spa, the first BEEFY’S by Sir Ian Botham which is a British bar and restaurant, and the Ageas Bowl’s 18-hole golf course, Boundary Lakes.

In addition to the luxury spa and Sir Ian Botham’s flagship restaurant, Hilton at the Ageas Bowl also features extensive meeting and event space.

The second and third Tests take place on 16 July and 24 July at Old Trafford, where facilities include the 150-bed Hilton Garden Hotel.

The Hilton Garden Inn Manchester Emirates Old Trafford is a four-star, 150-bedroom hotel situated within the Old Trafford cricket ground.

Many of the hotel’s rooms have balconies, overlooking the world-famous cricket pitch.

Situated at the home of Lancashire County Cricket Club, the modern hotel features a 24-hour front desk, garden market, fitness suite and a lively bar and restaurant. Old Trafford Football Stadium, home of Manchester United, is just half a mile away.

The two teams will be battling for the The Wisden Trophy, currently held by the West Indies. It was first awarded in 1963, when Frank Worrell’s West Indies won a five-match series in England 3-1, thanks to wins at Old Trafford, Headingley and The Oval.

And the teams’ bowlers will be competing for the Malcolm Marshall Memorial Trophy, awarded to the player who takes the most wickets in the series. It was first won by Windies’ Courtney Walsh in 2000, but since then the award has gone to an England player in every series, most recently Jimmy Anderson for his 17 wickets the last time the teams met.

Joe Root (left) and Jason Holder (right) go head to head in The Wisden Trophy this month. Root misses the first Test, so Ben Stokes will captain the team.

The England squad for the first Test is Ben Stokes (captain); batsmen Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Joe Denly, Ollie Pope and Dom Sibley; wicket-keeper Jos Buttler; all-rounder Chris Woakes; and bowlers Jimmy Anderson, Jofra Archer, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad and Mark Wood.

The West Indies captain Jason Holder will lead a team chosen from batsmen Jermaine Blackwood, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, John Campbell; wicket-keepers Shane Dowrich and Shai Hope; all-rounders Nkrumah Bonner, Roston Chase, Rahkeem Cornwall, and Raymon Reifer; and bowlers Shannon Gabriel, Chemar Holder, Alzarri Joseph and Kemar Roach.

Expect the ball to dominate the bat across the three Tests, with matches unlikely to meander to five-day stalemates. England start as favourites, but Jason Holder and his fast bowlers will provide England’s inexperienced batting order a stern examination.

You can follow the series on Sky Sports, on BBC Radio Five Sports Extra, online and, in highlights on BBC television.