Test cricket made its return yesterday (Wednesday) as England hosted the West Indies on a rain-affected first day at Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl.

No fans were in attendance at the 15,000-seat stadium, with only a limited number of media and venue staff on site. Rain meant that the action did not get underway until 2pm, with a further break coming later in the day following another downpour.

Ageas Bowl was selected to host the first Test this week, with Manchester’s Emirates Old Trafford ground to stage back-to-back Tests from July 16-20 and July 24-28. Yesterday marked the first cricket action in England since the COVID-19 outbreak.

England’s series against the West Indies had originally been due to take place at Lord’s and The Kia Oval in London, and Edgbaston in Birmingham, from June 4-29. COVID-19 forced the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) to reassess its options, with the Ageas Bowl and Emirates Old Trafford having mainly been chosen due to their on-site hotels.

Ongoing restrictions imposed by COVID-19 mean that the Ageas Bowl and Emirates Old Trafford will operate as ‘bio-secure venues’. Health check and sanitisation points for personnel have been set up, along with vehicle screen areas, welfare units, perimeter fencing, temporary walling and temporary accreditation checkpoints. The production of all wayfinding and signage at the venues is another requirement.

The West Indies squad arrived in the UK on June 9, travelling to Emirates Old Trafford for quarantining and training. The team was based in Manchester for three weeks before moving to the Ageas Bowl for the start of the first Test.

Venues had to demonstrate key principles to create a bio-secure environment, meeting key criteria covering biosecurity, medical screening/testing provision, social distancing and venue/cricket operations.

The Ageas Bowl and Emirates Old Trafford will receive an administration fee for staging the Test series and all additional central costs will be met by the ECB. Edgbaston has been selected as a contingency venue and will be used to stage additional training throughout July. Ticket purchasers for the original England v West Indies Test series will be entitled to a refund.

The Formula 1 motor-racing series, which started its 2020 season in Austria last weekend, is one of the only other sports staging international events as COVID-19 continues to have an impact worldwide.

Image: Dominic Lockyer/Attribution 2.0 Generic (CC BY 2.0)/Edited for size