MX23RW : Wednesday, September 23 14:52:48| >> :120:75861:75861:

Ben Stokes XI field as England return to competitive action

Stokes will captain next week's first Test against the West Indies in the absence of Joe Root.

Saqib Mahmood and Rory Burns kicked off England's first day of competitive cricket since March 13, as a Ben Stokes XI took the field against a side captained by Jos Buttler.

Mahmood was handed the opening over at Burns and got the three-day warm-up under way with a loosener that sailed for four byes down the leg-side.

Despite that inauspicious start the very sight of the country's leading red-ball players competing again, for the first time since abandoning their tour of Sri Lanka as the coronavirus pandemic took hold more than three months ago, was a major boost for all the nation's cricket fans.

Stokes will captain next week's first Test against the West Indies in the absence of Joe Root – who has left the group to attend the birth of his second child – with Buttler serving as his vice-captain.

This week the pair are leading rival teams, though, as 27 players jostle for selection.

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West Indies' Shannon Gabriel in an exchange with Joe Root on February 12, 2019
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