Batting could well determine which side emerges on top when international cricket resumes after months of coronavirus-enforced lockdown with the first Test between England and the West Indies at Southampton starting on Wednesday.
Both sides have proven pace attacks, with West Indies captain Jason Holder among a bowling unit set to include the likes of Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach and Alzarri Joseph as the tourists look to retain the Wisden Trophy they won in the Caribbean last year.England too have plenty of pace bowling options, with veteran new-ball duo James Anderson and Stuart Broad among a group of fast bowlers that also includes the Barbados-born Jofra Archer and Mark Wood.
They, like the West Indies, will be captained by a seam-bowling all-rounder of their own in new skipper Ben Stokes, shouldering the burden of England leadership for the first time in the absence of regular captain Joe Root, who is missing the match to attend the birth of his second child.
England have no spare batsman in their 13-man squad, with Dom Bess the lone spinner, and that meaning the make-up of their pace attack appears to be the outstanding issue.
Injuries have prevented England pairing the express Archer and Wood together since the former's Test debut last year.
But if they are both in the final XI, it could mean Broad missing a first home Test in eight years.
With matches coming thick and fast -- the three-match series will be over before the end of the month -- England may decide to hold Wood back for the second and third Tests at Old Trafford.The pitch at Lancashire's headquarters traditionally has more bounce than the one at Southampton -- a consideration that is even more important given the temporary ban on bowlers using saliva in order to combat the spread of COVID-19.
This series also takes place against the backdrop of the Black Lives Matter campaign, with both sides set to wear a BLM logo on their shirts.
International Cricket Council Chief Executive Manu Sawhney welcomes the resumption of international cricket.
“We are delighted at the resumption of international cricket with England taking on the West Indies in a Test series beginning tomorrow. I would like to thank the ECB for their tireless efforts in ensuring that appropriate measures are in place to ensure the safety and security of participants. Exactly four months ago to the day, the ICC Women’s T20 World Cup final was watched by millions of fans the world over, and we are sure the excitement remains as high. I wish both teams and the match officials the very best for what promises to be an exciting series,” said Manu Sawhney.