Si­b­ley and Stokes knuckle down to re­store or­der on day of chaos

Opener hits un­beaten 86 as Eng­land reach 207 for three West Indies pace at­tack looks jaded and fails to seize con­trol

The Daily Telegraph - Business - - Sport Second Test - By Nick Hoult

Dom Si­b­ley pro­vided the calm­ing in­flu­ence Eng­land badly needed on a chaotic day as West Indies wasted an op­por­tu­nity to seize hold of this match and the se­ries.

The Eng­land play­ers woke to a text mes­sage sum­mon­ing them to a team meet­ing to be told that Jofra Archer had been put in soli­tary con­fine­ment and their plans for this match ripped up at the last minute.

What they needed was a solid bat­ting dis­play in dif­fi­cult con­di­tions to steady nerves and re­fo­cus on beat­ing West Indies and lev­el­ling the se­ries.

In Si­b­ley they have an open­ing bats­man who will never in­spire crowds to rush to take their seats for ball one of the day, and if there had been a crowd at the ground yes­ter­day most of them would have spent it in the beer tent and drifted away early, but his un­beaten 86 from 253 balls over the course of six hours was just what his team needed, guid­ing them to 207 for three.

He has a very lim­ited range of strokes, an open, ugly stance and scores so heav­ily on the leg side that at one stage West Indies barely both­ered de­fend­ing it when the off­spin­ner was turn­ing it into his pads, sta­tion­ing three men, one in the deep, at mid­wicket.

But Si­b­ley has fo­cus and the drive to suc­ceed, prov­ing to Eng­land dur­ing lock­down he could im­prove his life­style by los­ing nearly two stones in weight to pre­pare for the sum­mer. He showed the same ap­pli­ca­tion out in the mid­dle to re­sist temp­ta­tion to make his sec­ond suc­ces­sive fifty. He had luck, too, and was twice dropped, but was pa­tient and has set it up for the mid­dle or­der to at­tack to­day.

He was part­nered by Ben Stokes, 59 not out, in an un­bro­ken fourth­wicket stand of 126 and the lat­ter was equally dis­ci­plined. He gave away his wicket twice in the first Test but this time he showed bet­ter con­trol and has the op­tion to­day of go­ing on the of­fen­sive, as Eng­land have plenty of bat­ting in the side with Sam Cur­ran and Chris Woakes two of four changes to the side beaten in Southamp­ton. West Indies wasted the new ball, their at­tack leader Shan­non Gabriel was only half fit and they were flat in the field, drop­ping Si­b­ley on 44 and 68.

With Eng­land in tur­moil yes­ter­day, Aus­tralia would have crushed them, but West Indies let it slip.

Light rain de­layed the start and the clouds con­vinced both cap­tains to bowl if they won the toss de­spite teams opt­ing to bat first in ev­ery Test at Old Traf­ford since 1993. The pitch will turn as it wears but both Ja­son Holder and Joe Root be­lieved wick­ets in cloudy con­di­tions with the new ball on day one of­fered their best hope. Eng­land’s changes, at least, would have given Root a fresh at­tack. But West Indies re­mained un­changed and their bowlers were weary. With the first ses­sion re­duced to an hour and the light gloomy, it was a per­fect time to be bowl­ing but there were too many poor balls from all seam­ers.

Holder turned to Ros­ton Chase for the oblig­a­tory one over of spin to run the clock down be­fore lunch. It was al­most an ad­mis­sion of fail­ure that he had to sum­mon the off­spin­ner in the first ses­sion of the match with the flood­lights on.

Rory Burns has de­vel­oped a

habit of get­ting in but not stay­ing around long enough to in­flu­ence the match. He played for too much turn against Chase and was beaten by a ball that straight­ened. Wast­ing a re­view com­pounded the er­ror.

Zak Craw­ley’s dis­missal was the dozi­est thing done by an Eng­land player yes­ter­day not called Archer. Holder po­si­tioned him­self at leg slip for the first ball af­ter lunch and Craw­ley gra­ciously obliged by guid­ing the ball straight into his hands to put Chase on a hat-trick.

Fac­ing a hat-trick ball was not ideal for Root in his first in­nings for more than four months. He played sketchily and tried too hard to force the pace while Si­b­ley sleep­walked at the other end. Eng­land were get­ting on top and when Gabriel went off for treat­ment on his thigh, they had a chance to re­ally press the ad­van­tage but Root drove hard at a wide ball from Alzarri Joseph that Holder held at sec­ond slip.

West Indies did not at­tack Si­b­ley enough with the short ball. He was pa­tient to wait for the straight delivery that he could work on to the leg side and his ef­forts were ap­pre­ci­ated by Root who banged on the dress­ing room win­dow when he reached his half-cen­tury off 164 balls with two fours, both scored through third man. Root does not care that Si­b­ley chugs along, here at one an over, like a driver con­tent to sit in the mid­dle lane.

It is a test of a player’s pa­tience to bat with Si­b­ley be­cause stroke­mak­ers like Stokes and Root have to ac­cept they will spend a long time at the non-striker’s end. It could be why Root played such a loose shot but Stokes can be mea­sured and he chose his mo­ments to at­tack.

He struck Chase down the ground for six and used the slog sweep, a risky shot against a spin­ner on a bouncy Old Traf­ford pitch, to add ur­gency to the in­nings.

They crept up to a fifty stand off 156 balls thanks to Si­b­ley be­ing dropped at short leg off Chase, and on 68, a much more straight­for­ward chance by Holder at sec­ond slip off Gabriel. He was so in­censed he lost his line in his next over and bowled a wide to sec­ond slip, which at least Holder caught this time.

Close call: Dom Si­b­ley makes his ground de­spite the best ef­forts of West Indies wick­et­keeper Shane Dowrich

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