CHESTER-LE-STREET: England cricket chiefs on Friday defended their decision to play the West Indies in early May despite the two-Test series being greeted with a resounding thumbs-down from fans.

Since moving to regularly having seven Tests in an English season in 2000, the ECB has often hosted a two-match series in the early part of the summer.

This month’s campaign against the West Indies saw the earliest start to an English Test season in history and the crowd for the series opener at Lord’s, which England won by 10 wickets inside three days, was not what you would expect at the ‘home of cricket’. Thursday saw an extremely low first-day attendances for a Test in England with only 3,000 tickets sold in advance.

But David Collier, the ECB chief executive, said the reason why England were playing the West Indies now, ahead of a year which also includes the World Twenty20, a one-day series against Australia, the Champions Trophy and a tour of South Africa, was to prepare for the home Ashes series which starts in July.