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New England skipper, potential debuts, and batting concerns

Eng v WI, talking points

West Indies and England have some things to think about before they identify their best XI for the first Test in Southampton starting 8 July.

The intra-squad warm-up games are done and dusted, the bio-secure environment is bustling with activity and the two teams are in the final round of preparations as international cricket returns following a break.

With both teams identifying potential areas of weaknesses and strengths through the warm-up matches, we take a look at five talking points in the lead-up to the first Test.

Ben Stokes as captain

With Joe Root missing the first Test to attend the birth of his child, Ben Stokes will lead England for the first time. He will be one of the least experienced captains, having never led any team in first-class, List A or T20 cricket. Stokes vowed to take the "positive route" on accepting the role. However, there will be questions surrounding his workload. He will be the premier middle-order batsman in the absence of Root and will also have plenty of responsibility with the ball.

West Indies' batting concerns

West Indies produced a miracle at Headingley the last time they toured England, but they know that their primary concern this time is the batting. Across the two warm-up games, Kraigg Brathwaite, Shai Hope and Shane Dowrich were the only incumbent batsmen to impress. Since their last tour to England, West Indies have a batting average of 23.59 across 19 Tests. They will have to punch well above these numbers to test a strong England side at home.

Exciting reserves strength and possible debutants

One major takeaway from the warm-up matches was the impressive bench strength of the two teams. While Joshua Da Silva was the standout player for West Indies with scores of 133* and 56*, Dan Lawrence made a statement at No.4 with a crisp half-century for Team Buttler. Neither of these batsmen will start in Southampton, but their presence in the reserves is exciting. The one possible debutant for West Indies is Raymon Reifer, the left-arm pacer, who took a five-wicket haul in the first warm-up game.

England have handed spin bowling duties to Dom Bess
England have handed spin bowling duties to Dom Bess

Bess to lead England's spin department

England had five spinners in their 30-man squad, but gave the lone spinner's spot to Dominic Bess for the first Test. Bess was indeed the most impressive of the spinners in the warm-up game and also has recent Test performances – a five-wicket haul in South Africa in England's last series – going his way. He beat the formidable duo of Moeen Ali and Jack Leach to the spot and will now need to justify his place.

West Indies' formidable pace attack

West Indies added Shannon Gabriel to their 15-man squad after he proved his fitness in the warm-up matches. He is likely to start alongside Kemar Roach and skipper Jason Holder. There could be room for an additional pacer in the starting XI. Phil Simmons had identified Alzarri Joseph as a key player on this tour and he could slot into the bowling attack if West Indies deem variety in the form of Reifer, a left-arm seamer, is unwarranted.

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