You fight against time chasing a win in one, you fight against it to avoid the loss in the other. You succeed overwhelmingly in the first and go down convincingly in the other. In the world of increasing limited overs’ popularity, Test cricket showcases an ever-increasing charm. Cricket’s return to the international scene has been an entertaining one for the fans. Post a surprise win for the Windies against England in the First Test, the hosts sprung back to win the Second Test at Manchester by 113 runs.
At the center of the win yet again, was the English all-rounder Ben Stokes. Unapologetically meticulous with the bat, impressive with the ball, spirited in the field and the real career of the entire team. Ben Stokes finished his complete performance by a humble gesture of handing over his souvenir stump to fellow centurion Dom Sibley, post the win. “There is absolutely nothing that the man Ben Stokes can not do on a cricket field.” The sentence speaks volume and justifies big-Ben’s performance in the Second Test to every bit.
England vs West Indies: As it happened
Having lost his First Test as captain, Stokes took the onus upon him to take England to glory at Manchester. Having lost three relatively quick wickets post a decent start, Stokes joined forces with Dom Sibley on Day 1. The pair saw through the difficult part of the day, reached their respective half centuries and set the stage for England for a big score in the first innings. Despite an initial rain delay, England managed to end the day at 207/3 after 82 overs.
Stokes and Sibley continued their dominance on Day 2 as well. While Sibley completed a patient century, playing at a steady strike rate of 32, Stokes pedalled acceleration in the second half. The left-hander went on to complete his 10th Test century, entering an exclusive list of all-rounders with 10 centuries and 150+ wickets.Sibley’s 126, Stokes 176 and a few steady contributions from the lower order helped England reach a mammoth 469/9 in the first innings. The magnanimity of the score also meant that Windies, in order to still remain in hunt, had to do both, score big and play time. Their cause was well helped by the raingods as rain allowed no play possible on Day 3.
An eventful Day 4:
Resuming 32/1 on Day 4, the Windies batsmen got worthy starts but failed to convert them into bigger knocks. The discipline and consistency of the English bowlers daunted the visitors. The pace-bowling attack of Broad, Woakes and Curran proved their mettle with the ball pitching in with wickets at constant intervals. It were these crucial times of the game that gave England the edge over their opponents. Interestingly, as many as three Windies’ batsmen got past 50 but none held up his end post the milestone. Brathwaite, Brooks and Chase failed to anchor the innings as the team was folded for 287 on Day 4. West Indies however, had managed to avoid the follow-on. England’s only chance to win lay in scoring quick runs and their decisions reflected similar principles. Stokes and Butler opened the innings for England with an intention to go big right from the start. But Butler fell to Roach in the first over and Sibley followed him to the pavilion next. At the end of Day 4, England rested at 37/2 in 8 overs.
The morning of Day 5 brought smiles in the English camps. Both Root and Stokes went for the kill and unleashed their T20 ability to the core. It are always these moments and situations that a Test match throws a team into that make the format more interesting. Stokes massacred the ball to all parts playing a quickfire 78*. Scoring in excess of 6rpo, England declared their innings at 129/3. Having played only 19 overs for the cause, England allowed themselves a good 75+ overs cushion to restrict the visitors.
The Final Frontier:
The approach of the West Indies, right from the start, let the cat out of the bag. It was clear that they were playing for the draw making the rivalry more interesting. Broad and Woakes again, combined well to take away the Windies’ top 3 out cheaply. At lunch, in pursuit of 312 runs, West Indies struggled at 25/3. Broad picked up his third soon post lunch reducing the score to 37/4. It was up to the likes of Shamarh Brooks and Jermaine Blackwood to lend their team some stability. With more than 60 overs still to play, the young heads had the impossible task of controlling their instincts. The command of English bowlers on them was so strong that even salvaging a draw would seem like a win.
Brooks and Blackwood almost played through the second session before a brilliance from Stokes sent Blackwood packing, at the stroke of Tea. The fast and skidding bouncer was deflected off Blackwood’s bat to a diving Jos Butler. The undying intensity, energy and passion from Ben Stokes had brought over the wicket. His effort in the field, just a few balls prior, was enough evidence to his dedication and love for the sport. The West Indian hopes now rested on Brooks, Dowrich and Holder’s shoulders but the English bowling was too strong to tackle. Fired up Englishmen dismissed West Indies within an hour post Tea, score 198/10.
Courtesy the 113 run victory, England drew the three-match series 1-1 leaving it all to the decider starting Friday. Ben Stokes cherished yet another, undisputed Man of the Match award as Holder politely confessed his team’s mistakes. With the series evenly poised, the world now awaits a blockbuster Test match here again at Manchester.