The West Indies and England both showed their pride on display in a historical Test at Southampton during these COVID-19 times.
The match was played interesting surrounds with no fans, no saliva on the cricket ball and both the players and the Sky Sports crew all in the hub together. It makes this an interesting experience for all, but that’s what is needed to be done as we saw a great game of Test cricket.
But will all these distractions, it did not stop captain Jason Holder showing who is boss with six wickets in the first innings by restricting England to 204 with nobody making 50. The top score was first-time captain Ben Stokes with 43 but he could not push on.
The Windies were strong from the star. Even though they bowled 17 overs at England on Day 1 they looked ready to go. Then they started on Day 2 with Holder and Shannon Gabriel taking the ten wickets between them with Holder taking 6-42 off 20 overs. This includes six maidens. Gabriel took 4-62 off 16 overs.
Their batting has been a concern, especially in England, as in the last series, which saw the Windies totally outplay them. But the Windies held their own with opener Kraigg Brathwaite and number seven Shane Dowrich both making 60s in making a grand total of 318 late on Day 3. Moreover, what helped the Windies was the absence of Stuart Broad, who made his anger clear to the selectors on Sky Sports during the coverage.
One big finding for England was Dom Bess, who did bowl well and took two wickets in the first innings as the number one spinner, which has been a head scratcher for selectors.
One bowler that could be under the acid is Jofra Archer. He has not shown his full potential that he showed us last year with no wickets in the first innings. Another speedster Mark Wood replaced Broad for the match and he was also wicketless.
Jimmy Anderson was back to his best with the ball with 3-62 but captain Ben Stokes did what he has done before and fought back with the ball with four wickets as the Windies took a 114-run lead on late Day 3.
At the end of Day 3, there was no damage for England with both Rory Burns and Dom Sibley at the crease and they wanted to make ground in creating a tough target.
Day 4 was a tough encounter for both teams and the Windies made the most of the advantage with disciplined bowling, which helped them break up key partnerships such as Ben Stokes and Zak Crawley and stopped openers Rory Burns and Dom Sibley, both looking like taking the game away from the Windies with both makings starts.
Sibley made 50 while Burns will be kicking himself with only 42 and handing his wicket away. It was not all doom and gloom for England with Crawley and Stokes fighting back with a 98-run partnership and they were looking to build a lead but were undone by some magic by Gabriel, Holder and the new boy on the block Alzarri Joseph, who held back England.
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Crawley went on to make a impressive 74 and Ben Stokes fell four runs short of a half century. After this, though, it was all the Windies with Gabriel taking the last two wickets to hand the Windies the title of winner of Day 4 as England were 8-284 with a lead of 170 runs.
Day 5 was set up to be a ripper day for both teams. With England only 170 in front it was up to Jofra Archer and Mark Wood to hold out and make a tricky total to bowl at the West Indies.
The Windies were wanting quick wickets early in the day to help win their first Test in England since 2017. The Windies did just that even though Archer hit a quick 23 to give England a target of 199.
Shannon Gabriel was the pick of the bowlers in the second innings with taking six wickets and taking ten for the match. But the Windies got off on the wrong foot with the bat with opening batsman John Campbell retiring hurt and then Jofra Archer – who was under fire by the pundits – took two quick wickets to have the Windies reeling at 2-24 and still needing 176 runs.
Then it got worse for the Windies with Mark Wood striking in his first over, knocking over Shai Hope for nine with the Windies still needing 173 runs to make the job harder. At lunch, it was evenly poised with the West Indies 3-35, still needing 165 runs.
Roston Chase and Jermaine Blackwood were in after lunch and were looking to start boldly after lunch. They combated Archer and Wood, who were looking dangerous in the first session on Day 5. But the two carried on and were guiding the Windies to a famous win, adding 50 runs between them midway through the middle session and looking quite comfortable at the crease.
Then at the end of 30th over, Crawley missed out on a perfect run-out chance and missed out on getting Chase out. But the two still looked stable.
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Then two missed chances went begging for Ben Stokes’ men with two dropped catches from Jos Buttler when Blackwood was on 20, which was undetected by the umpires. Then gully fieldsman Rory Burns dropped Blackwood on 30 with the Windies still needing 116 runs. It was a poor day in the field for Ben Stokes and the team. Blackwood was batting with a sore right eye to add to the drama in this chase.
Then Archer produce a magical bumper to dismiss Chase for a crucial 37 and break up a 77-run partnership with Blackwood during the middle part of the after-lunch session. The match was now evenly poised with the Windies still needing 100 runs on an uneven surface. It looked like Archer was going to produce someone magic for England once again.
That was Archer’s third wicket for the match and he had bowled menacingly on Day 5 by roughing up the Windies batsmen. Then the off spinner Dom Bess thought he had Shane Dowrich but could not overturn the umpire’s decision on an LBW decision.
But the man of hour Archer thought he had the wicket of Dowrich but it hit the elbow not the glove from a nasty ball and was overturned by Dowrich. Blackwood got to his 11th 50 with an edge but it was a crucial 50 coming from 91 balls with the Windies needing 76 to win with plenty of time to play.
As the Windies went into tea needing 57 to win and with six wickets in hand, it looked pretty even. But the Windies held on with Blackwood going on to make a match-winning 94 with the help of Dowrich, who made a key 20.
Jason Holder and the injured John Campbell finished off the remaining runs to a take one-game series lead. New captain Ben Stokes tried to lead a comeback by dismissing both Blackwood and Dowrich but couldn’t produce a miracle.
This positions Holder’s men in a great position for the Manchester Test as they have a chance to retain the series for the first time since 1995. It is a great day for Windies cricket and highlights the need for Stuart Broad in the team for England and also the need for Joe Root in the batting line-up.