SOUTHAMPTON, England - The much-anticipated return of international cricket after almost four months was, almost predictably, delayed by rain on Wednesday as the start England's first test against the West Indies in Southampton was pushed back.
The toss was due to take place at 1030GMT ahead of an 1100GMT start but has been delayed after light rain and overcast skies meant the covers had to be deployed.
The teams are meeting in a "bio-secure environment" at Southampton's Ageas bowl with daily health checks for everyone in the ground - which doesn't include fans - in the first of a three-test series.
Former West Indies T20 captain Carlos Brathwaite told the BBC: "It's a duty for us as sportspeople to bring some normality back to the world. Hopefully we can get under way and bring some good back to the game and to the world."
It is 117 days since England's warm-up match in Sri Lanka was abandoned due to the COVID-19 threat and no cricket has been played since.
England are captained in the first test by Ben Stokes, standing in for Joe Root, whose wife is about to give birth.
West Indies, who like England have a strong bowling attack but a somewhat fragile batting lineup, are led by Jason Holder - the world's number one ranked test all-rounder.
Both teams are expected to "take a knee" before the start of the match, and a minute's silence will be observed to mark the victims of the virus and also former West Indies batsman Everton Weekes, who died last week.
England's players will also have the names of key workers on their training shirts.
Stokes, whose kit bears the name of Dr Vikas Kumar, a specialist in anaesthetics and critical care, said: "We're only able to play this match because of the amazing job that key workers up and down the country have done to help us through this pandemic.
"Wearing their names is a real honour for us, and is a small sign of our appreciation for the incredible work they have done."
The series will feature many variations from a regular test due to the virus restrictions. There are home umpires - the first time in England since 2002, and because of that each team will have three referrals instead of the usual two per innings.
The match referee is Chris Broad - father of England bowler Stuart.
Players are not allowed to use saliva to polish the ball and umpires will not take jumpers and caps from bowlers.
The match is the first of six tests almost back-to-back for England, who go straight into a three-match series against Pakistan at the same closed venues in Manchester and Southampton in August.
(Reporting by Mitch Phillips, editing by Christian Radnedge) ((email@example.com; 07990 568843;))