England and West Indies will pay tribute to Britain's key workers during the forthcoming Test series, which has been named the #raisethebat Test series in recognition of the sacrifices made by doctors, teachers, carers and other vital professions during the Covid-19 pandemic.
In the build-up to the first Test, which begins on July 8 at the Ageas Bowl, England's players will wear the names of selected key workers with cricketing backgrounds on their training shirts, while the #raisethebat initiative - which has already featured on 300 billboards across the country, and featured in a short film narrated by Stephen Fry - will be rolled out to a wider audience from June 29.
The decision to dedicate the series to key workers comes after the ECB's Test sponsorship deal, a two-year agreement with Specsavers, elapsed at the end of the Ashes last summer with no replacement lined up.
England's 30-man squad is due to report to the Ageas Bowl on Tuesday to begin their 'behind-closed-doors" build-up to the series, just as West Indies begin their first warm-up match at Emirates Old Trafford, having completed their 14-day isolation period.
The England players will be tested for Covid-19 on arrival, then kept in isolation for the first 24 hours before beginning their training sessions on Thursday. The squad will be split into two groups of 15, and will practice morning and evening respectively, ahead of their warm-up match starting July 1.
"We've waited a long time for this moment, and we wouldn't be here without the West Indies - we are so grateful to them for making the tour happen," said Joe Root, England's captain. "As we get back to playing the game we love, we want to take the time to honour the brave key workers who went into bat for their country under the toughest circumstances. It's only fitting that we use this series as an opportunity to 'raise a bat' in their honour. We'll wear their names with pride."
The people named on the shirts include Dr Vikas Kumar, a Specialist in Anaesthetics and Critical Care at Darlington Memorial Hospital, who plays for Cowgate Cricket Club in his spare time. All of the names have all been nominated by their local cricket clubs, and their stories will be amplified across the ECB's digital platforms.
Emily Blakemore, a full-time nurse and volunteer at Astwood Bank Cricket Club, is another of the chosen players.
"It's going to be an absolute honour to see one of the England Men's players come out while wearing my name on the back of their shirt," she said. "It has been such a difficult time for so many people, and there's still a lot of hard work ahead, but it's exciting that we'll be able to see some cricket again.
"The cricket family has really pulled together at a tough time and I can't wait until we can get playing at my club again. Until then, hopefully Joe Root and the team can give us something to cheer about. Summer isn't summer without cricket."
Tom Harrison, the ECB chief executive, said: "As we stage the first international sporting competition in the UK since COVID-19 began, we want to pay tribute to the people who have bravely played their part during this crisis. Through the #raisethebat Test Series, we will show our gratitude to key workers.
"It has been a long and challenging journey to cricket's return and while this pales in comparison to what the country has faced, we hope the #raisethebat Test Series will bring some enjoyment and light relief to people's lives."