However, rain soon afterwards delayed the scheduled 11:00am (1000GMT) start, with covers on the whole square as well as the pitch itself.
England were without star all-rounder Andrew Flintoff after he failed to recover from a recurrence of his longstanding left ankle problem.
The hosts opted for a three-man pace attack in quick bowler Flintoff's absence with late call-up James Anderson, the Lancashire seamer, left out of a bowling line-up featuring Stephen Harmison, Liam Plunkett, Matthew Hoggard and left-arm spinner Monty Panesar.
England were already without captain Michael Vaughan. The Yorkshire batsman hasn't played a Test for 18 months, due to knee and hamstring problems. But he was ruled out of this match after having his finger broken while batting against Hampshire's Australia quick Stuart Clark.
Opening batsman Andrew Strauss, who led England during their 3-0 home Test series win against Pakistan last year, was set to captain the side on his Middlesex home ground.
Owais Shah, a Middlesex team-mate of Strauss's, was due to bat at three in his first Test in England with the hosts handing a Test debut to wicket-keeper Matt Prior.
Regular No 3 Ian Bell was set to take Flintoff's batting spot at six.
This was England's first Test since their 5-0 Ashes thrashing in Australia and first under new coach Peter Moores after the former Sussex chief replaced Duncan Fletcher.
West Indies, who have had just 48 overs of match practice since arriving in England after two days of their drawn three-day fixture against Somerset were washed out, have won just three of their last 15 Test series.
The tourists were without former captain Brian Lara after Test cricket's leading run scorer retired following hosts West Indies, like England, failed to reach the semi-finals of the recent World Cup in the Caribbean.
West Indies too had a new coach in David Moore, in for fellow Australian Bennett King and were now being captained by batsman Sarwan, who decided to give his attack first use of a pitch freshened by several days of rain.
Fast bowler Fidel Edwards was left out of the West Indies side with quicks Corey Collymore and youngster Jerome Taylor set to take the new ball in an attack also featuring Daren Powell and all-rounder Dwayne Bravo.
When the sides last met in a Test series three years ago, England won 3-0 in the Caribbean and 4-0 on home soil.
England: Andrew Strauss (capt), Alastair Cook, Owais Shah, Kevin Pietersen, Paul Collingwood, Ian Bell, Matt Prior (wk), Liam Plunkett, Matthew Hoggard, Stephen Harmison and Monty Panesar. Coach: Peter Moores.
West Indies: Chris Gayle, Daren Ganga, Devon Smith, Ramnaresh Sarwan (capt), Shivnarine Chanderpaul, Runako Morton, Dwayne Bravo, Denesh Ramdin (wk), Daren Powell, Jerome Taylor, Corey Collymore. Coach: David Moore
Match referee: Alan Hurst (Aus).