TEST: Stokes, Buttler revive England after another early wobble

SUMMARY: England 231-4 from 83 overs (Buttler 67*, Stokes 62*, Burns 29, Paul 2-42)

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Unbeaten half-centuries from Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler in a dramatic late session salvaged England’s first innings on the opening day of the third and final Test against West Indies at St Lucia.

Their unbroken 124-run partnership – England’s highest this series – made the task of saving their team’s batting blushes look like turning into an all-out rescue mission, particularly when Stokes’ dismissal to what appeared to be a sharp caught-and-bowled by Alzarri Joseph was overturned after the batsman had returned to the changing room because the delivery was deemed a no-ball, with replays showing Joseph had overstepped.

By stumps, Stokes and Buttler had steered England to 231 for 4 after they had fallen to a perilous 107 for 4 shortly before tea.

In contrast to England’s struggling top order, Stokes and Buttler batted with confidence, picking up the run rate and finally questioning West Indies’ decision to put the tourists in upon winning the toss. They were brought together by Joe Root‘s soft dismissal, nicking a Joseph short ball to wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich.

England had waited until the last possible moment to confirm Stokes’ involvement in the match after he pulled up with a bruised heel following the second Test but he showed no signs of the injury during his knock.

Stokes was not without luck, however. Shortly after the tea break, on 17, he survived when West Indies reviewed a not-out decision they believed should have been given lbw to Keemo Paul, only to see the DRS uphold the umpire’s original call.

Stokes and Buttler withstood a testing spell from Shannon Gabriel and Stokes brought up his half-century with a boundary off Roston Chase.

Stokes had not added to his score of 52 when he tested Joseph’s reflexes, sending a pull shot back to the bowler at thigh height for what appeared to be a clever take, only to be called back in a stunning reprieve when the no-ball was discovered, according to a 2017 change in the Laws allowing the batsman to be recalledafter leaving the field on the “misaprehension of being out”.

Keemo Paul impressed in his first Test of the series, claiming two wickets (Photo by Randy Brooks / AFP) (Photo credit should read RANDY BROOKS/AFP/Getty Images)

England lost three wickets between lunch and tea to be 114 for 4 at the break. Root’s dismissal was his third in a row at the hands of Joseph, with the England captain having scored 4, 22, 7, 7, and 15 in this series.

Rory Burns’ steady 29 off 103 balls looked promising, but then England lost 2 for 0 in six deliveries, thanks largely to some excellent bowling from young all-rounder Paul, playing just his third Test.

Before lunch, Paul had claimed the wicket of under-pressure opener Keaton Jennings to send England to the break on a hard-working 46 for 1. Joe Denly survived a scare, following a big appeal for caught behind off the bowling of Gabriel. When the batsman was adjudged not out, West Indies called a review, which revealed that while the ball had struck Denly on the glove, he had taken his hand off the bat.

Resuming unbeaten on 4, Denly began to look as though he might settle, though not always comfortably. His fully outstretched waft at a wide Kemar Roach delivery went to the boundary but brought back memories of his dismissal on debut in Antigua, a toe-ended cut shot that was caught behind.

But Denly and Burns dug in, albeit slowly, with Burns adding just two runs in the space of six overs after lunch as Denly built his innings.

Then Paul struck. Replacing suspended captain Jason Holder in the West Indies’ team, 20-year-old Paul trapped Burns lbw, but it took a review to secure the dismissal. After the batsman was adjudged not out, the DRS showed the ball was clearly hitting middle stump and England were 69 for 2. Just six balls later and without a run being added, Gabriel was rewarded for some hard toil when he had Denly out lbw, England losing a review this time.

Talk before the match had centred on England’s selection, with Jennings returned to the top of the order after being axed for the second Test, and Denly moving down to No.3. After a sedate opening by both sides in which the only real excitement came as Roach tempted a thick edge off Jennings, which dropped just short of John Campbell in the slips, rain stopped play for half an hour.

At the resumption, Roach and Jennings were the protagonists again as the match threatened to spring to life on a pitch offering far less spice than in Antigua.

Roach made a hearty appeal for lbw with Jennings on 3 but, presumably having heard two noises, his team-mates were not as enthused. Replays suggested that the ball hit the front and back pads, however, and not the bat, and would have gone on to hit leg stump.

Two balls later, Jennings edged Roach straight to third slip, but Chase spilled a regulation catch and the ball raced away to the boundary.

Jennings had exhausted his chances by the time Paul came into the attack immediately after drinks. With his first delivery, Paul had Jennings out to a tame catch by Darren Bravo at first slip, the batsman having scored just 8 from 43 balls in a less-than-convincing return to the team. (ESPNCricinfo)

 

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