England step into the unknown without Anderson and Broad in West Indies Tests

Seam bowler Ollie Robinson ruled out of first Test in Antigua which begins on Tuesday

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England cricket will take its first tentative steps into a new era when the first Test against the West Indies begins in Antigua on Tuesday.

The three-match Test series in the Caribbean can be described as the beginning of the end of the record-breaking seam bowling partnership of James Anderson and Stuart Broad.

The veteran seamers have been one of the greatest exponents of swing and seam bowling and have served English cricket with distinction, picking up a combined 1,177 wickets in Tests. However, England went for a new-look Test side for the tour of Caribbean, leaving out eight players who featured in the 4-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia.

Anderson and Broad were the most high-profile names to be sidelined, even if temporarily. England's reliance on the veteran quicks meant they enjoyed success at home but were left exposed in unfavourable conditions overseas, especially on batting friendly surfaces.

Now, the leadership reins have been passed on to the likes of Chris Woakes and Mark Wood. However, the lack of depth in the pace bowling group will be a concern. Seamer Ollie Robinson has been ruled out of the first Test with a back spasm, allowing uncapped quick Saqib Mahmood to step into the squad.

Interim head coach Paul Collingwood and captain Joe Root must now decide whether to hand the Lancashire quick a debut on Tuesday in an all-pace attack or select left-arm spinner Jack Leach.

Craig Overton seems certain to play, Wood has recovered from illness and Woakes is most likely to lead the attack. But without Anderson and Broad, there are obvious concerns.

"Ollie is a talented bowler. Naturally he'll be a big miss," said Woakes.

"He's shown in his short Test career so far that he's certainly got the skills and the ability to do good things in the format. At the same time, it gives people opportunities.

"We're trying to win games of cricket here, but it does give that chance to someone to potentially make their Test debut who's been waiting in the wings for quite a while to show what they can do at this level."

Their opponents know England will still be licking their wounds from the Ashes defeat. West Indies pace spearhead Kemar Roach said he was surprised to see England leave out his old sparring partners Anderson and Broad and believes the move is good news for his side.

As the leader of the West Indies attack, Roach has enjoyed his battles against the experienced pair and thinks they will be missed.

"It was quite surprising. I definitely thought both would still be involved," he said.

"Decisions have been made from that end and it's a slight advantage for us. Those experienced players missing leaves a little bit of a hole for England to fill.

"Robinson, Woakes and Wood are still fantastic bowlers, we still take them seriously, but once we get our plans right we should be good going into the series."

The one player who will possibly be under the most scrutiny is England captain Root. The top-order batsman had earlier said he was thankful to still hold his post after the crushing Ashes series loss.

The 4-0 result in Australia saw England director of cricket Ashley Giles, head coach Chris Silverwood and batting coach Graham Thorpe all sacked.

Root was spared the axe, with some suggesting a lack of viable and long-term alternatives possibly saved his position.

Updated: March 07, 2022, 9:49 AM