Belated start to the Test match summer scuppered by rain

England and the West Indies left frustrated by the weather on day one in Southampton

First Test day one: England 35-1 off 17.4 overs (R Burns 20*, S Gabriel 1-19); England won the toss and elected to bat.

This England team has been readier to acknowledge the virtue of patience since the advent of Chris Silverwood as head coach. They have opted for a Dominic Sibley rather than a Jason Roy at the top of the order; swashbucklers are not quite so trendy now. Well, we all needed plenty of patience on the first day of this historic Test match.

Ever since the West Indies arrived in England on June 9 we have been contemplating the resumption of Test cricket with a mixture of incredulity and eager anticipation. Eventually the long-awaited day arrived and spoilsport clouds hovering over the Ageas Bowl joined forces to ensure that only 17.4 overs were possible. After all their hard work at least the ECB was spared having to compensate spectators for lack of play.

During that time England scored 35 runs for the loss of Sibley, whose instincts for self-denial rather than swashbuckling were so strong that he declined to play a shot in Shannon Gabriel's first over and he lost his off stump. The loss of an early wicket ensured a tense passage of play, sometimes interrupted by bad light or drizzle, during which Rory Burns and Joe Denly opted for survival mode, which was occasionally interrupted by punched boundaries.


Such a truncated day was, of course, frustrating but in a reassuring way. This was all perfectly normal in an increasingly abnormal world. Everyone is used to having to cope with the vagaries of the English weather. It is not a problem, just a pain. There is plenty of scope to make up time in this Test match and the forecast for the rest of the game just gets better.

It was not a straightforward start for the stand-in captain Ben Stokes. Before heading proudly to the middle in his England blazer he had to tell Stuart Broad, who had played in England's last 51 Tests on home soil, that he was not selected. As expected Chris Woakes, who is more used to that sympathetic glance from the captain, was also omitted.

The glowering clouds suggested bowling; the dryness of the pitch demanded batting which is what Stokes chose to do after winning the toss. There was much talk of this surface aiding the spinners late in the game despite the fact that only two of them are playing in this contest. Stokes reported that Broad took his omission “like an absolute champion and made a point of wishing me all the best”. Broad is almost certain to resurface at Old Trafford before long, and there he might enjoy the fact that the ball tends to zip through more enthusiastically.

Burns almost departed in the first over of the game. Kemar Roach, like Broad, prefers to bowl around the wicket to left-handers and he has become very adept at this. Burns padded up to his fourth ball and the West Indies opted to review – under the regulations for this series each side's entitlement to reviews has been expanded to three per innings because of the absence of neutral umpires. Burns escaped by a whisker via an umpire's call and the West Indies retained their review.

Roach, doing his Anderson impressions, allowed no liberties, yielding just two runs from his six overs. Gabriel was more expensive and quicker, reaching 92 mph and making the ball thud into Shane Dowrich’s gloves even though the pitch here is generally sluggish. Gabriel is something of a throwback; his fielding prowess is limited (he is perfectly prepared to plonk his size 13s on the ball), so too are his batting skills, but he can bowl genuinely fast and on target. His presence, after proving his fitness in the warm-ups, is an adornment to the series. The delivery that dismissed Sibley jagged back a little and was obviously too close to leave.

Both opening bowlers displayed their pedigree as did Jason Holder and Alzarri Joseph during their brief spells. Admittedly England have an upper order that might allow bowlers to relax a little. Against a Sehwag, a Trescothick or a Greenidge the good balls can go for four and the bowler's fingers suddenly feel like sausages. That is the downside of patient pragmatism. But also on view at the Ageas Bowl was the benefit.

Burns and Denly remained calm in tricky conditions. If the ball strayed onto Burns’s pads he clipped it away with conviction and when play was called off for the day he had accumulated his 999th Test run by reaching 20 not out. Denly struck three boundaries, two from the middle of the bat, in between defending skilfully for his unbeaten 14. Their partnership may not have been especially exhilarating or productive but it was important, for when the sun deigns to turn up, this surface should be accommodating for batsmen for a couple of days. - Guardian