After a long wait of 117 days, international cricket is all set to resume with the opener of the three-match Test series between England and West Indies at the Ageas Bowl in Southampton on Wednesday. And following the toss, all-rounder Ben Stokes became the 81st player to lead England in a Test match while the management dropped Stuart Broad for the first time in a home Test after eight years.
Stokes was earlier last week confirmed to lead the England side after Joe Root opted out of the opener to attend the birth of his second child. This is the first time that Stokes will be leading the country having served as the vice-captain under Root's captaincy. Jos Buttler has been named as the interim deputy for the opener on Wednesday.
England have left out seasoned Broad for the Southampton clash, picking the pace of Mark Wood and Jofra Archer instead alongside veteran pacer James Anderson. This will be the first time that England have left out Broad for a home Test since 2012. Interestingly, the last time he missed a home Test was also against West Indies, at the Edgbaston.
With the decision, Broad's streak of 51 consecutive home Test appearances for England ends, making him third in the all-time list after former skipper Alastair Cook (89 appearances between 2006 and 2018) and Andrew Strauss (61 appearances between 2004 and 2012).
Stokes, explaining Broad's exclusion after the toss, said that the decision was tough for him to take but opined that the inclusion of Archer and Wood adds a different dimension to the England pace attack.
"We've Woody, Jofra, Jimmy and myself. Obviously a very, very tough decision with Broady and Woakesy as well but we feel that with Woody and Jofra's pace it adds another dimension to the options that we can have. There was obviously some disappointment but the two lads missing out took it like champions and understood the reasons," Stokes explained.
Stokes opted to bat first in Southampton after winning the toss.
"We're going to bat first, the reasons being that we're trying to get the best out of the conditions. With the overheads here there was a little bit of discussion around it but it didn't change our initial thought process. The pitch does feel quite hard on top but it's not going to have too much pace to it and in recent times spin has come into later on in the game so hopefully we can put some pressure on and get first-innings runs on the board," said Stokes.