LONDON: England has confirmed they will play three Tests at home to the West Indies in July, subject to British government clearance to return behind closed doors, the England and Wales Cricket Board (ECB) announced on Tuesday.

The first Test will take place at Hampshire’s Ageas Bowl from July 8 to 12, with the second and third Tests at Old Trafford in Manchester on July 16-20 and July 24-28 respectively.

The series had been due to take place in June but was delayed because of the coronavirus.

The West Indies, who agreed in principle to take part in the series last week, are due to arrive in England on June 9 and will then be based at Old Trafford for a three-week period of quarantine and training before travelling down to Southampton.

ECB director of events Steve Elworthy said: “Our main objective is to deliver a safe environment for all stakeholders including players, match officials, operational staff, essential venue staff, broadcasters and media.

“We are in daily dialogue with government and our medical team, who have been incredibly supportive during this period. These are our proposed dates and they remain subject to UK government approval.

“We would like to thank Cricket West Indies for their co-operation and dedication in making this tour a reality, and we all look forward to the prospect of cricket returning in the coming weeks.”

The series should have started at The Oval in south London this Thursday, with the second and third Tests originally scheduled for Edgbaston and Lord’s.

But the fixtures — now behind closed doors matches — were moved to the Ageas Bowl and Old Trafford for reasons of bio-security, with both grounds having on-site hotels where players and officials can be closely monitored for signs of Covid-19.

The ECB also added the revised venues have ability to enforce social distancing during games.

Edgbaston in Birmingham, however, will serve as a contingency venue to stage additional training throughout July. Last week the ECB announced it was pushing back the start of its domestic season until August at the earliest.

But going ahead with international fixtures is seen as vital to avoiding a financial black hole, with ECB chief executive Tom Harrison warning a completely cancelled season could cost the board 380 million ($477 million).

Pakistan are due to arrive in England for a three-Test series and three Twenty20 Internationals later in the season, with England also scheduled to play limited-overs matches against Australia and Ireland.

The ECB said a decision on those matches and the women’s internationals against India and South Africa would be made at a later date.

Published in Dawn, June 3rd, 2020