All England and West Indies players take knee in poignant Black Lives Matter protest before rain-soaked First Test

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ENGLAND and West Indies players took a knee in a show of solidarity before the start of a rain-soaked First Test.

Just as play was about to begin, the players on the field – and the two umpires – went down on one knee in a gesture that has become synonymous with racial equality.

The other players, reserves and support staff joined in support of the Black Lives Matter campaign from the edge of the boundary.

The whole of the Windies squad also wore a black glove on their right hands and raised a fist – echoing American athletes Tommie Smith and John Carlos’ action at the 1968 Olympic Games.

Shortly before, the players gathered in a circle and observed a minute’s silence to remember those who have died during the Covid-19 crisis and also legendary Windies batsman Sir Everton Weekes, who passed away last week.

Stand-in skipper Ben Stokes said before the game that taking a knee was an “opportunity to send a huge message” to the world about the iniquity of racial discrimination. He also spoke about trying to educate people about the need for equality.

Players from both teams had a Black Lives Matter logo on the collar of their shirts and a BLM banner was hanging in front of the West Indies dressing-room at the Ageas Bowl.

Stokes wanted to stress that wearing the logo and taking a knee did not mean the players endorsed some of the political statements of the Black Lives Matter movement.

While rain delayed the start until 2pm, Sky Sports showed interviews with former Windies fast bowler Michael Holding and ex-England women’s batsmen Ebony Rainford-Brent who spoke powerfully about their experiences of suffering racism in cricket.

England vice-captain Jos Buttler spoke of the players’ pride in taking a knee.

He said: “I think it’s very important for both sides to show solidarity and to do it together.

“I thought taking a knee was a very powerful message that needs to be taken forward and I’m glad we were part of it.”

Windies fast bowler Shannon Gabriel added: “It was a great moment, showing something we stand for and that racism has no part in cricket.”

After a late start, the game was again interrupted after just three overs with England 1-1.

England opener Dom Sibley was bowled for a duck offering no shot to Shannon Gabriel in the second over of the match.

Only 17.4 overs were played on the first day with England closing on 35/1, with Rory Burns scoring 20 not out and Joe Denly 14 not out.

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