Cricket news - Alzarri will have a lot to do with the outcome of series: Simmons

"One of the things I like is the extended squad. I'm extremely happy with that."

"One of the things I like is the extended squad. I'm extremely happy with that."

Did you know that since January 2018, West Indian pacers average just 21.78 in England? And that they have a strike-rate of 42.90? Even if it isn't commonplace knowledge, West Indies coach Phil Simmons is fully aware. And it's perhaps why he's particularly excited about the return of Test cricket with his side taking on England from July 8.

Jason Holder averages just 14.22 while Kemar Roach has managed to keep it under 20 in England since January 2018. Add to that the reliability of Shanon Gabriel and the pace of Oshane Thomas and Alzarri Joseph, and England's batsmen should expect a stern test. "We know that Kemar [Roach], Shannon and Jason are our top bowlers but [Alzarri] Joseph has been bowling so well that I think that he will have a lot to do with the outcome of this series," Simmons said.

"I'm not concerned about the batting. The batsmen have worked very hard on getting to where they are now, and all that it takes now is for their mindset to be right for the Test match.

"The key thing for us is that we play proper cricket in all three facets of the game. We keep talking about the batting, and the bowling has been strong, but we must field well and catch well also to give ourselves that chance. Our frame of mind is that we have to play well in all three facets of the game in order to beat England."

The slight concern for West Indies will be Holder's ankle injury. Simmons, however, wasn't too concerned. "Jason has played enough Test cricket now to know what he's working on and, mentally, he's where he wants to be," he pointed out. "He might not have scored runs up in Manchester, but he's been hitting the ball well.

"Everyone is in the right frame of mind. The guys are looking forward to the Test match. We've had a few activities and it's a positive because it keeps guys close, helps people bond, allows Kemar (Roach) and Shannon (Gabriel) and Jason (Holder) to chat with the youngsters. That part has been excellent."

Simmons believes the absence of Joe Root, who is away for the birth of his child, doesn't really give the visitors any advantage. "You have to be careful about how you use an advantage," he said. "With Root not being there some youngster will want to make a name for himself. Sometimes that is even harder than facing players you know.

"England have had a successful team for some time so it will help Ben that he has the experience behind him, in Jimmy [Anderson] and [Stuart] Broad and people like that if he comes a cropper on the field. It is hard to say that it's a big advantage for us."

With the Tests being played behind closed doors, and the teams staying in a bio-secure environment, Simmons stressed that the England and Wales Cricket Board has provided a blueprint to restart international cricket. "It's a huge blueprint for how cricket can move forward in this situation. There are parts of it we can keep when we get through this pandemic and life gets back to what is considered normal. One of the things I like is the extended squad. I'm extremely happy with that.

"We're about to show that other places can start putting things together. The ECB has to be commended for all the work they have done to get the series on the road and let's see what other countries take from it. People want to see sports because it lifts people, so hopefully, this is the start."