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Blackwood, Holder star as Windies conquer England in cricket’s thrilling return

After a 117 day international cricket hiatus, rain and bad light made for an underwhelming first day, but it didn’t detract from a powerful statement.

Cricket, generally a traditionalist sport, frayed from its roots to be a part of something much bigger. After a minute’s silence in recognition of those killed by the COVID-19 pandemic, and the passing of Sir Everton Weekes; players, officials and support staff took a knee in support of the Black Lives Matter Movement. In a unique touch the West Indies players raised their fists whilst wearing black gloves.

West Indies players show support for the Black Lives Matter movement

After the pain staking wait was further prolonged by a three hour delay, international cricket was finally back, and it was met with a commanding start from West Indies new ball pair Kemar Roach and Shannon Gabriel.

Captaining his first Test in the absence of Joe Root, Ben Stokes (43) top scored for England and held the innings together as most batsman failed to make the most of their starts in the tough conditions. Jos Buttler (35), off spinner Dom Bess (31*) and Rory Burns (30) the other notable scorers.

Shannon Gabriel expertly set up Dominic Sibley to claim the first wicket before the home side could put a run on the board, squaring him up with a beautiful outswinger then bringing the next one back in to the clueless Sibley who offered no shot as the ball clipped his off peg.

Gabriel sent Sibley packing for a four ball duck

Only three overs were snuck in before the first rain delay, setting the tone for frustration filled stop-start day that would permit just 17.4 overs, England 1-35 at the close of play.

After a plucky 18 off 58, Shannon Gabriel completely rearranged Joe Denly’s castle, sending the stumps scattering every which way. He trapped Rory Burns LBW two overs later, dismissing both set batsman in a matter of minutes.

The tough conditions were doing Ben Stokes and Zak Crawley no favours as they looked to stabilise the innings. Stokes occasionally walking down the wicket and coming at the fast bowlers to try and compensate for the movement, playing some picturesque straight drives to kickstart his scoring.

Windies skipper Jason Holder claimed the wicket of Zak Crawley LBW. The first of six as he summed up the conditions perfectly, utilising his ability to make the ball talk on a lively track, unfazed by his lack of pace – a worrying sign for England who controversially left out stalwart Stuart Broad in favour of raw pace.

Stokes and Buttler combined for a pivotal 67 run partnership, holding the innings together, but fell in quick succession and left the tail exposed. A plucky innings from number eight Dom Bess helped England on their way to a total of 204, in just 67.3 overs.

The world’s highest ranked all-rounder Jason Holder finished with 6-42 in a superb display, Shannon Gabriel claiming the remaining 4-62.

Holder celebrates one of his six first innings wickets

As a result of COVID-19, home umpires are officiating for the first time since two neutral umpires were introduced in 2002, and they didn’t exactly pass with flying colours, or pass at all for that matter. English Umpire Richard Kettleborough gave three English batsmen – Rory Burns, Zak Crawley and Jofra Archer – not out after an LBW appeal, only for his decision to be overturned after a successful West Indies review on all three occasions.

His officiating partner Richard Illingworth iced a horror day two for the non-neutral umpires as the Windies innings commenced. he judged West Indies opener John Campbell to be out LBW three times, only for the first two to be overturned upon successful review.

Kraigg Brathwaite (65), Shane Dowrich (61), Roston Chase (47) and Sharmarh Brooks (39) all played valuable hands to steer the touring side to a 114 run first innings lead.

England were left to rue their controversial call of leaving out Stuart Broad. Their quicker alternatives of Jofra Archer and Mark Wood managed one wicket between them, and that was number 11 Shannon Gabriel. Broad and his 485 Test wickets, could’ve had a field day with the pitch and conditions best favouring his bowling – which is the most similar to Jason Holder of any English bowler.

Brathwaite and Shai Hope (16) navigated the tricky end-of-day period to guide the West Indies to a respectable 1-57 at the close of day two, trailing by 147 as bad light bought play to a premature end for the second consecutive day.

Archer, who would finish with 0-61, gave Brathwaite a valuable reprieve when it was found he overstepped the line after trapping the opener LBW. Brathwaite made the most of his lifeline, summing up the conditions perfectly much like Holder with the ball, playing as late as possible and with soft hands.

Dom Bess claimed the prized wicket of number three Hope with a flighted tempter outside off. Stokes dismissed Brathwaite soon after, an LBW that kept slightly low.

Chase played the long game, his conservative 47 lasting 142 balls. Dowrich – who was the aggressor of their 81 run stand – bought up an incredibly vital half century, having averaged just 26 on his last tour of England.

The Windies finished on 318, making the most of friendlier batting conditions and lasting 102 overs to take control of the Test. Skipper Stokes lead from the front, picking up an innings best 4-49 to go with his first innings top score. He also retaliated in the captain’s duel, dismissing Holder after the opposing skipper got him in the first innings. James Anderson (3-62) was in the wickets as usual and the off-spin of Dom Bess picked up 2-51.

England fared much better in their second innings, benefactors of the now more comfortable batting conditions with Zak Crawley (76), Dominic Sibley (50), Ben Stokes (46) and Rory Burns (42) leading their charge to 313.

After a surviving a tricky 10 over patch to end day three, Burns and Sibley got to work compiling a 72 run opening partnership.

Sibley was happy to bat conservatively and leave plenty close to his stumps even after his first innings disaster. His gritty 50 that included a nasty blow to the elbow as the pitch played a few tricks coming off 164 balls. He was eventually undone by a snap in concentration, poking at a wide ball that he’d been leaving all day and dragging it back on to his stumps. It was found Gabriel overstepped but the West Indian wouldn’t have to wait much longer to get his man, his very next ball a rib-tickler that caught Sibley’s inside edge on its way to the hands of wicket-keeper Dowrich.

The part time off-spin of Roston Chase picked up the other two valuable top three wickets. A loose Burns cut shot flew straight to Campbell at backward point, and Joe Denly was spewing after chipping a very average delivery down the throat of Jason Holder at short mid-wicket.

Stokes and Crawley lead England to a commanding position of 3-168 at tea on day four, at that stage looking like batting the West Indies out of the game. Crawley was booming with confidence, reverse sweeping Chase to bring up his 50. His partner Stokes looked in nice touch also, driving the ball beautifully.

A spirited after-tea Windies fight back put the game on a whole new trajectory. Holder had Stokes caught at gully and a Crawley leading edge popped straight back to Alzarri Joseph for a caught and bowled.

With two new batsmen at the crease, the West Indies sensed their opportunity and pounced, their pace quartet – namely Joseph and Gabriel – taking three more wickets to conclude the day with five in the final session.

Jos Buttler successfully overturned his LBW decision on five, but only added four more runs before being skittled by Joseph, giving the Windies real momentum.

Gabriel cleaned up Dom Bess for three, and three balls later Ollie Pope for 12, the former only adding two runs after being dropped by Dowrich. England were left on 8-284 at stumps with a lead of 171, setting up an enthralling final day of action.

Mark Wood and Jofra Archer added some valuable, yet streaky runs. Archer danced Jason Holder and hacked him away to bring up the team 300. Archer’s plucky innings bought to an end when he was caught behind trying to pull Gabriel, he contributed 23 runs and England had added 29 on the morning of day five.

Gabriel finished with 5-75, and match figures of 9-137. Alzarri Joseph (2-45), part time tweaker Roston Chase (2-71) and Jason Holder (1-49) were the other wicket takers.

Needing 200 to win, the stage was set for a climatic last day. After some shaky runs, a brutal Archer yorker struck Campbell on the toe and forced him to retire hurt in the third over. In his next over Archer cruelly bowled Brathwaite, the ball taking an inside edge into the ground and spinning back through a narrow gap between his legs and onto the stumps.

In his next over – the seventh of the innings – Archer struck once more. He trapped Sharmarh Brooks LBW and suddenly the Windies had lost two wickets for no runs to leave them shell shocked at 2-7 with Campbell retired hurt and Archer sending down thunderbolts. It’s fair to say number five Roston Chase was in earlier than he’s accustomed too.

Shai Hope counter attacked for the West Indies with some nice cover drives, but was cleaned up by Mark Word for nine. The tourists upset hopes severely dented at 3-27, practically 4-27 without John Campbell. Enter Jermaine Blackwood.

With a chance to lock up the win and throw away the key, England faltered. As Blackwood and Chase set out about rebuilding the innings, the former was gifted four lives.

On five runs, he looked to cut Bess and edged to first slip for a regulation catch, the only issue being the eager Stokes had moved several steps to his right in anticipation as Blackwood shaped for the shot.

The second life off the bowling of Stokes, when Buttler foiled a sharp caught behind chance down the legside.

With confusion between the wickets, both batsmen were left stranded at the same end. It was easy pickings for fielder Zak Crawley, only issue being he left the ball behind.

Off the bowling of Stokes again – with Blackwood on 29 – the ball went straight through the hands of Rory Burns at gully. The fourth missed chance before he’d even reached 30.

You can only give a good batsman so many free tickets until he cashes in, which is exactly what Blackwood did.

A vicious short ball peppering from Archer culminated with Chase being caught behind, the ball ballooning off his shoulder and into the waiting hands of Buttler, for a hard fought 37 off 88.

With Archer at his venomous best – at on stage getting Dowrich into an extremely awkward position and nearly dismissing him only for the review to discover the ball came off his elbow – and Bess getting sharp turn, it made for tough batting conditions. Blackwood was able to keep his inner wild child at bay, and bat with composure. Eventually bringing up his half century with an edge through the slips to see the West Indies recovered at 4-124, needing 77 to win.

Archer had his countrymen in all sorts

Dowrich and Blackwood made it through to tea, the West Indies in the box seat needing 58 to win in the final session with six wickets in hand.

Stokes finally provided a much needed breakthrough, bringing England back into the contest with Dowrich caught at first slip. Unfortunately it was a no-ball and Dowrich returned, lasting two more deliveries before snicking off again, this time into the gloves of Jos Buttler, giving England a glimmer of hope.

That glimmer grew the slightest when Jermaine Blackwood’s flair-filled innings was bought to an end, holing out to mid-off James Anderson on 95. The dismissal was eerily similar to that of his first innings, falling agonisingly short of just his second Test century.

England needed four wickets, the West Indies needed 11 runs. A courageous John Campbell returned to the crease, willing to put his body on the line to see his country to victory.

Campbell was hobbling between the wickets, and even wore one on the helmet. His single to backward square leg bringing up the winning runs in a monumental 4 wicket upset.

Holder and Campbell celebrate a big victory for West Indies cricket

The pace of Mark Wood (1-36) and Barbados born Archer (3-45) came into play on a dead and dried out wicket, but it was ultimately too little too late as they only had 200 to defend. Ben Stokes picked up 2-39 to cap off successful test on a personal note, match figures 6-88 going with his knocks of 43 and 46.

Stokes will have plenty to review after his tough introduction to Test captaining, a combination of batting first in the toughest conditions of the match, leaving out Stuart Broad and crucial fielding errors worked against England.

The West Indies played very well, inspired by Jason Holder’s contribution with the ball and Jermaine Blackwood’s final day heroics, they capitalised on their opportunities and set the scene for an enthralling series.

England will be boosted by the return of skipper Joe Root, whilst it will be interesting to see whether veteran Stuart Broad is recalled. Currently 1-0 down in the three Test series, they face the challenging task of having to win both of the next two Tests if they are to mark cricket’s return with a home series win.



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