Leap of faith Pope’s brilliant catch seals victory
England level series after stunning spell with bat and ball Broad makes his point by taking three crucial wickets
At the moment of victory, Ben Stokes pulled a stump out of the ground and handed it to Dom Sibley as a souvenir.
Ever the team man, he remembered young Sibley’s invaluable contribution in this hard-fought victory, but it was Stokes who dragged his team to a series-levelling 113-run win with an all-round performance of skill with the bat and sheer willpower with the ball.
To follow his slowest Test hundred with the fastest fifty by an England opener setting up the declaration, before bowling another marathon 11-over spell of short balls to break West Indies’ most stubborn partnership, was a performance worthy of a cricketing lord and somewhere in North Yorkshire Sir Ian Botham will have been nodding his head in respect.
It was not hard to pick a man of the match.
Moments after West Indies were bowled out for 198, Stokes dragged himself off with a sore groin. He pulled out of his final over with one wicket left, recognising there was no point risking further damage with a series to be won when it resumes on Friday. “I’m fine,” he said afterwards. Of course he is.
England will now contemplate changes. The depth of their bowling will be the difference between these sides. They could rotate their entire front-line bowling group and arguably improve the attack that played in this game, with the addition of more pace to unleash at batsmen rattled by the bouncer.
To lose a day to rain and take 19 wickets in the remaining time was a terrific effort by England, rallied by Stokes and Stuart Broad’s competitive instincts to prove a point.
England talked about “dangling a carrot” on Sunday night but there was no need to gamble on the declaration thanks to Stokes. His 78 off 57 balls propelled England to a 311run lead as they added 92 in 11 overs. It gave them 85 overs to take 10 wickets and included five overs with the second new ball if needed.
Broad ran in from the James Anderson End and was spot on with lengths with the new ball, taking three for 24 in a nine-over spell. Joe Root wanted Broad to abandon his conservatism and sacrifice a few runs to penetrate with the new ball. Now wary of being left out, Broad obliges. He shrugged off having his fourth ball driven through mid off by John Campbell to hit the same length next ball and take the edge.
An absolute peach from Chris Woakes removed the blocker Kraigg Brathwaite and, crucially,
Broad dragged back his length a fraction now he was bowling to right-handers. He ploughed a patch outside off stump which made the ball jag back. He tried pointing it out to Stokes, but instead showed him the way by hitting it to bowl Shai Hope and pin Roston Chase leg before.
At 37 for four, West Indies looked fragile for the first time but they have backbone, with two batsmen, Jermaine Blackwood and Shamarh Brooks, old hands determinedly establishing Test careers.
Now the ball had softened, England missed their pacemen. Brooks hammered Dom Bess around and it was clear England had to resort to the short ball.
Again, Stokes stepped up to fill Jofra Archer’s shoes. Bowling around the wicket, hitting a shortish length to aim the ball awkwardly into the armpit and ribs, Stokes was testing the nerve. It is not a situation West Indies’ domestic cricket serves up too much these days, so when players move up to Test level they can be exposed. Blackwood, leading run scorer in their domestic competition, was uncomfortable, unable to sway or duck. He nearly popped a couple of chances to short leg and England’s frustration grew as the partnership reached 100.
Facing England brings the best out of Blackwood and he resisted taking on the short ball but eventually, four balls before tea, with Stokes toiling away in his eighth over, he flapped at a rib tickler and Buttler took a good, diving leg-side catch.
Shane Dowrich had already been found out by the short ball and was trapped on the crease for Woakes’s 100th Test wicket.
England were nervy as Brooks played nicely for his second fifty of the game and Jason Holder rode his luck. But two of England’s young cricketers showed admirable resolve to come back from a hammering. Sam Curran had been expensive but scuttled through Brooks’s defence, and Bess recovered from being slapped by Holder for four and six to spear one into the rough and hit the stumps through the gate. There was still time for Stokes to have a say, with Alzarri Joseph caught at point before Bess finished it off with a juggling catch at short leg by Ollie Pope.
The morning had started with a clonk of leather on a plastic seat reverberating around the ground as Stokes hit Shannon Gabriel’s fifth ball of the day for six in an opening over that brought 14 runs. Forget getting your eye in.
West Indies resorted to using three reviews to waste time and Campbell dropped a sitter in the deep when Stokes was on 29 that cost them not just runs, but time, too.
Stokes lifted the target beyond 300, leaving only two results realistically possible. When he had the ball in hand, and the game was there to be won, Stokes later made sure only one result was inevitable.