England and West Indies will be first to experience the changes in their three-match series. Watch every ball live on Sky Sports
Wednesday 8 July 2020 10:08, UK
It feels like an eternity since England's players left the field in Colombo, their tour of Sri Lanka having been postponed due to the spread of coronavirus across the globe.
Nearly four months on though, and Test cricket is back as England begin their three-match series against the West Indies, live on Sky Sports, on Wednesday.
While cricket fans will savour the familiar battle between bat and ball returning to our screens, there will also be a few unfamiliar sights this week at the Ageas Bowl after the ICC approved a number of interim regulation changes in order to mitigate the risks posed by COVID-19 and maximise the safety of the players and officials.
Unsurprisingly, the series will take place behind closed doors and in two bio-secure stadiums. The Ageas Bowl will host the first #raisethebat Test before the teams move to Emirates Old Trafford for the second and third Tests. Players and officials will live at the on-site hotels at each ground and be screened daily for symptoms and regularly tested for COVID-19 based throughout the match.
To make the grounds bio-secure, they have been divided into designated zones. These zones would separate the two teams, match officials, ground staff and the media, with movement between the zones strictly limited.
While there will be no fans inside the grounds, there will be a PA announcer and Sky Sports viewers will hear the hum of the Lord's crowd during play. Social distancing also means player interviews will also be slightly different with a Player Zone set up for Ben Stokes, Jason Holder and co to talk to our pundits at various points throughout the Test.
The ICC has confirmed teams will be able to substitute any player who shows signs of COVID-19 during a Test match. As is the case with concussion replacements, it would have to be a like-for-like swap. Simply put, if a fast bowler developed symptoms, he could only be replaced by another fast bowler and not by a batsman, all-rounder or a spin bowler.
Players will also be banned from applying saliva to shine the ball. Although the ICC say there will be some "leniency during an initial period of adjustment for the players", teams will be given warning by the umpires.
Each team can receive two warnings per innings before incurring a five-run penalty to the batting side. Although players will be allowed to use sweat to try and shine the ball, the ban on saliva is likely to make the new ball all the more precious while reverse swing may prove to be the key throughout the series if the teams are unable to shine the ball as they would normally.
It is 19 years since an Englishman umpired an England Test match but that will change on Wednesday. The ICC have temporarily removed the requirement to appoint neutral officials for a Test match or one-day international from the playing conditions "owing to the current logistical challenges with international travel".
As a result, the four-man umpiring team for each match will be made up entirely of Englishmen. Richard Illingworth and Richard Kettleborough will stand for the first Test with Michael Gough as third umpire. The three will rotate throughout the series, while Alex Wharf has been named as fourth umpire for the first two Tests before being replaced by David Millns for the third.
Former England opener Chris Broad has been appointed as match referee for all three matches, raising the prospect of him having to fine his own son, should Stuart fall foul of the laws of the game at any stage.
With the likelihood of more inexperienced umpires standing in international matches across the world over the coming months, each team will also be given an additional DRS review per innings.
That means teams will have three unsuccessful DRS reviews per Test innings, rather than the usual two while in limited-overs matches, sides will now have two unsuccessful reviews should they need them.
The shirts worn by the England and West Indies players may also look a little different after the rules on shirt sponsors were relaxed.
For the next 12 months, teams will be able to display the logo of a sponsor on the chest of their shirts and jumpers. Previously logos on the shirt chests had only been allowed in ODIs and T20 internationals.
Watch our England vs West Indies preview show from 7.45pm on Monday on Sky Sports Cricket. Then catch day one of the first #raisethebat Test from 10.30am on Wednesday on Sky Sports Cricket and Main Event.