CHENNAI: The resumption of international cricket after four months was in itself a reason to celebrate. That it did so with a thrilling West Indies win over England in Southampton made it even sweeter.
One of the widely visible changes in the series, played under new regulations, was bowlers abstaining from the use of saliva to shine the ball. There have been plenty of discussions on how that will affect movement, and the first match saw those theories come true on the ground.
England's pacers resorted to back sweat to shine the ball, but conventional swing seemed mostly absent at the Ageas Bowl. Mark Wood admitted that the hosts' pace battery "didn't get it right with the ball", while the tourists were spot on with their lines and lengths.
That even James Anderson wasn't really hooping the ball as much as he does on home turf was quite the testament. It was the case with Jofra Archer as well. After a fine spell in the morning session of the fifth and final day which fetched him two wickets, the 25-year-old stuck had to resort to shorter lengths in the quest for breakthroughs.
England off-spinner Dom Bess remarked that playing with the new restrictions wasn't easy. "It's certainly different," he told select media on Tuesday. "The first Test was a great challenge in terms of how we can get the ball swinging and how we can sort of look after the ball with just sweat. As a fielder who
sweats a lot, I took responsibility to try to shine the ball. I guess the real challenge with it was making it not dull and not putting too much sweat on the ball. It is an interesting one."
That the match going into the final session of the last day with three results still possible was an indication that home advantage may not dictate the course of the result. With no saliva and less swing, Bess opined that adaptability will be key when the second Test begins in Manchester on Thursday.
"Even in the warm-up game, we were finding ways as to how we can keep the ball in true conditions. It was a bit challenging," the 22-year-old added. "We are in a time where we are working out ourselves at the moment. We are learning with each game and with new circumstances, we are in. We created a lot of
opportunities in Southampton. We just have to take it in the second Test."