West Indies fight back after super show from Stokes to expose England frailties
JUST when you thought Ben Stokes had wrestled this see-saw series back into England’s grasp with an irresistible display of swing bowling, West Indies again confounded expectations by exposing the home team’s brittle top order.
Any team who are bowled out for 123 on the first day of a Test as the tourists were here are surely destined for defeat?
But England are nothing if not charitable. So, despite Stokes’ career-best haul of 6-22, the familiar top-order failings that have haunted this team for so long reared their head again to let West Indies back in.
Failures by novices in Mark Stoneman and Tom Westley were no surprise, especially given the gloomy, late-evening conditions that made batting so treacherous.
Indeed, the loss of Alastair Cook and captain Joe Root, that saw England slip to 24-4 in reply, underlined the fact that these were conditions even the best batsmen were likely to struggle with.
It means this deciding match – and a series that is level at 1-1 - is fascinatingly poised heading into the final four days.
England will believe they have enough depth in their batting to recover from yet another toporder collapse and post a significant-enough first-innings lead. The fact Stokes is still there at the crease, alongside Dawid Malan, will give them further confidence that will indeed be the case.
This has been a summer where the Durham all-rounder has been in imperious form with the bat, scoring a decisive hundred in the third Test against South Africa at The Oval back in July and then another century against West Indies during England’s shock defeat at Headingley last week.
However, this was the best he has looked bowling-wise during a summer where he has been under-par with the ball.
The way Stokes cut a swathe through West Indies’ batting lineup was simply outstanding. It left poor James Anderson waiting for his 500th Test wicket after he had crept up to 499 thanks to his early dismissals of Kraigg Brathwaite and Kyle Hope.
That saw West Indies end a rain-interrupted first session on 35-2 after Jason Holder, their captain, had elected to bat first after winning the toss.
Anderson’s first 12-over spell was impressive but it took the introduction of Toby Roland-Jones from the Pavilion End to end a problematic 56-run stand between Shai Hope, whose twin centuries won his team the Headingley Test, and opener Kieran Powell. It was Hope who was extinguished on 29, Roland- Jones, recalled on his home ground of Lord’s, finding the edge that was taken by Cook at first slip.
The former England captain had dropped Brathwaite on three in the morning but he made no mistake here.
Stokes then entered the fray with his first wicket of the day in the next over, taking a smart return catch to get rid of Powell 39 and leave West Indies on 78-4.
They were 87-5 when RolandJones made Jermaine Blackwood pay the price for a lavish drive, the Jamaican’s stumps shattered with his score on just one.
Stokes then completely dominated as he started to produce prodigious swing.
By tea, with the tourists on 119 for seven, he had bowled Roston Chase with a beautiful outswinger and given Cook another catching opportunity at first slip to dismiss Shane Dowrich.
However, Stokes took just 16 minutes after the interval to wrap up the innings as Jason Holder, bowled by a fantastic inswinger, Kemar Roach, caught by Anderson, and Shannon Gabriel, another who was bowled, all fell.
The fact this all came during a marathon spell lasting more than two hours made it even more impressive. Stokes’ place on both honours boards at Lord’s was fully
deserved. West Indies, though, showed it wasn’t just England’s bowlers who could use the cloud cover to their advantage.
Stoneman, whose half-century at Headingley was encouraging, will still be unsure of his place on this winter’s Ashes tour after he edged Roach behind on one to a shot he shouldn’t have played.
England were 1-1 and were soon 15-2 when Cook fell to Roach in exactly the same manner, although no blame could be apportioned to the batsman this time given how good the ball was.
Westley will not want to see his dismissal again after he was trapped lbw by Holder on eight. The Essex batsman’s grip on the No3 position is now seriously tenuous. You would think only a century in England’s second innings will see him retain his place for the Ashes.
England were 19-3 after Westley dismissal and relying on Root to bail them out yet again.
That wasn’t going to be on this occasion, though, as Root gave Holder his second wicket, Powell hanging on to the chance at first slip.
The bad light that saw play end prematurely spared England batting another half-hour last night. It may prove decisive come the end of this brilliant series.
Five, six, heaven: Ben Stokes celebrates dismissing Kemar Roach for his five-for and then ending the innings by bowling Shannon Gabriel for his sixth scalp, inset
Roar emotion: Jason Holder salutes the wicket of Tom Westley
Screamer: Jimmy Anderson sends Kraigg Brathwaite back to the pavilion