Sport Cricket England, West Indies players kneel as first Test starts

England, West Indies players kneel as first Test starts

Players took a knee and raised a fist in solidarity with the Black Lives Matter movement. Photo: AP
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England and West Indies players took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter movement before the start of play in the first Test at Southampton as international cricket returned after a four-month absence on Wednesday.

Moments before the first ball was bowled at an empty Rose Bowl, West Indies’ fielding players knelt in the outfield while their England counterparts did the same around the field.

A Black Lives Matter logo also was on the collar of the test shirts worn by players from both teams for the match played in a strict isolated environment and following repeated testing of players and staff members.

The West Indies squad has said the movement, which has grown since the killing of George Floyd in the United States in May, has been a source of motivation on this tour.

The kneeling gesture has been made before English Premier League matches since the resumption of soccer in England last month.

There was a minute’s silence in honour of those who died in the coronavirus pandemic and also West Indies great Everton Weekes, who died last week.

Play started after a three-hour delay because of light rain and a wet outfield, and only lasted for three overs before the teams had to go back inside because of another shower.

Rain and bad light restricted the first Test between England and West Indies to 17.4 overs and the hosts closed a frustrating day on 1-35.

After all the anticipation, day one of the first of three Tests turned out to be a damp squib.

If any fans had been allowed in they would have been jeering and complaining as the players remained in the pavilion for more than 90 minutes because of bad light, despite Southampton’s Ageas Bowl having floodlights.

If that frustration, an issue administrators appear powerless or unwilling to address, was all-too familiar, much else about the occasion felt very different.

The match is being played in a “bio-secure environment” with daily health checks for everyone in the ground. There are home umpires – the first time in England since 2002 – and because of that each team have three referrals instead of the usual two per innings.

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 in quick succession for England, who go straight into a three-match series against Pakistan in August at the same closed venues in Manchester and Southampton.