International cricket resumes after nearly four months as England and West Indies players take a knee in support of the global campaign against racial injustice.

West Indies players kneel in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign before the match in Southampton, Britain on July 8, 2020.
West Indies players kneel in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign before the match in Southampton, Britain on July 8, 2020. (Reuters)

International cricket has resumed after a four-month coronavirus shutdown as England and West Indies players, who rekindled the powerful imagery of clenched fists inside black gloves, took a knee under grey skies in Southampton in support of the global campaign against racial injustice.

On Wednesday, only 82 minutes' play was possible due to rain and bad light interruptions after weeks of glorious sunshine in Britain.

England stand-in captain Ben Stokes, leading the side while Joe Root was on family duty following the birth of his second child, won the toss after bad weather meant the morning session was washed out.

The players gathered in a semi-circle on the pitch before play started to observe a minute's silence in memory of the victims of the coronavirus and West Indies great Everton Weekes, who died last week at the age of 95.

They then dropped to one knee in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign following the death in the United States of George Floyd in May.

West Indies players wore black gloves on their right hands in an echo of the "Black Power" protests made famous by US athletes at the 1968 Mexico City Olympics.

'A great moment'

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 has 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.

"It was a great moment, showing something we stand for and that racism has no part in cricket," West Indies fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, who took the only wicket to fall on Wednesday, told the BBC.

Meanwhile, West Indies assistant coach Roddy Estwick told reporters: "We felt like we wanted to do something different, we felt if we wanted to make a bigger statement we should wear the black glove and it worked as people are talking about it.

"That was our way of showing our support to the Black Lives Matter campaign."

England batting coach Graham Thorpe added: "It's important to show solidarity with the West Indies. The bottom line is we feel there is no room for racism in the sport."

Awkward moments

There was an awkward moment after the toss when Stokes avoided the traditional handshake from opposing captain Jason Holder, a move prohibited under the special Covid-19 regulations applying to this series.

Even more awkward for England was when opener Dom Sibley fell for a four-ball duck, bowled by Gabriel after playing no shot to leave them none for one.

"It's been a bit tough, coming off and on," Gabriel said. "We just have to keep switched on when we come back on. It's been a tough day but we've been doing well so far."

On the ball that claimed the only wicket of the day, he added: "It was a good delivery after coming back from almost a year off in test cricket.

It feels good to be back."

Game abandoned 

England had moved on to 35 for one when, after two rain stoppages and bad light, a problem even though the floodlights were on, the play was finally abandoned for the day at 1711 GMT.

Rory Burns was 20 not out and Joe Denly 14 not out.

West Indies have not won a Test series in England since 1988, but they hold the Wisden Trophy after a 2-1 series win in the Caribbean last year.

Read more: Premier League returns as players take knee in anti-racism protest

Source: TRTWorld and agencies