The batting units of England and West Indies could decide who emerges victorious as the two sides prepare for the first Test of a three-match series set to begin at Southampton on July 8 (Wednesday).
Both sides have proven pace bowling attacks. All-rounder and West Indies captain Jason Holder will spearhead a bowling unit which includes the likes of Shannon Gabriel, Kemar Roach and Alzarri Joseph.
England too have plenty of pace bowling options. Veteran new-ball duo James Anderson and Stuart Broad remain threats in the longest format due to their ability to generate movement, whereas Barbados-born Jofra Archer and Mark Wood bring raw pace and bounce.
Dom Bess is the lone spinner in the home side's 13-man squad for the Test, meaning their main focus will be on figuring out the composition of the pace bowling line-up.
However, the biggest concern for both sides will be whether or not their respective batting line-ups will be able to put enough runs on the board to give the bowlers something to bowl at.
England Team News
England will be without the services of skipper Joe Root for the first Test, who is with his wife as the couple are expecting their second child.
All-rounder Ben Stokes will lead the side in his absence. However, whether or not the top-order can cope without his presence is another matter altogether.
Joe Denly, who has a modest average of 30 from 14 Tests, will most likely play and has the backing of the selection committee.
Injuries have prevented England pairing the express Archer and Wood together since the former's Test debut last year. But if they are both in the final XI on Wednesday, it could mean Broad missing a first home Test in eight years.
Possible Playing XI: Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Joe Denly, Ollie Pope, Ben Stokes, Jos Buttler, James Anderson, Stuart Broad, Jofra Archer, Dom Bess.
West Indies Team News
West Indies will be without the services of Shimron Hetmyer and Darren Bravo, who opted out of the tour due to personal reasons surrounding the Covid-19 pandemic.
To make matters worse, a likely top-five of Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shamarh Brooks, Shai Hope and Roston Chase collapsed to 49-5 in their final intra-squad warm-up innings at Old Trafford.
West Indies will likely start the first Test with Holder, Gabriel, Roach and Joseph as the pace-bowling options with Rahkeem Cornwall playing as the lone spinner.
Possible Playing XI: Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shamarh Brooks, Shai Hope, Roston Chase, Shane Dowrich, Jason Holder, Shannon Gabriel, Rahkeem Cornwall, Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach.
Head-to-Head Record – Last 5 Matches
The last five Test matches between these two sides have seen no drawn matches, with West Indies winning three and England emerging on top in two.
West Indies had won the first two Tests of the previous Wisden Trophy series in 2018 before England registered a consolation win in the final match of the series.
England had won the 2017 edition of this trophy but needed a win in the final Test at Lord's as West Indies had levelled the series after losing the first Test, which was the first Day-Night Test to be played in England.
Things to Watch Out For
Aside from Stokes being a first-time captain in the absence of Root, there's also the fact that this match will be played behind closed doors.
A lack of fans in international cricket is a novel concept but the rivalry between these two sides should shine through regardless.
The pitch at Lancashire's headquarters traditionally has more bounce than the one at Southampton - a consideration that is even more important given the temporary ban on bowlers using saliva in order to combat the spread of COVID-19.
How the teams react to playing behind closed doors, another anti-virus measure, rather than in front of the good crowds Tests in England usually attract, also remains to be seen.
Quotes from Both Teams
"As a top-order batter Joe (Denly) would obviously love to convert those starts into hundreds... but also it is fully understood that he has contributed to good team batting performances." - England national selector Ed Smith.
"I would have loved to see the batsmen spend a little bit more time in the middle." - West Indies assistant coach Roddy Estwick.
"When that Test match starts up, crowd or no crowd, you are going to be really up for it." - England batsman Ollie Pope.