Blackwood (95) guides West Indies to memorable win
SUMMARY: England 204 (Stokes 43, Buttler 35, Holder 6-42, Gabriel 4-62) and 313 (Crawley 76, Sibley 50, Gabriel 5-75, Joseph 2-45, Chase 2-71) vs West Indies 318 (Brathwaite 65, Dowrich 61, Chase 47, Stokes 4-49, Anderson 3-62, Bess 2-51) and 200-6 (Blackwood 95, Chase 37, Archer 3-45)
West Indies went 1-0 up in England for the first time since 2000 thanks to a superb 95 from Jermaine Blackwood which guided them to a target of 200 on the final day with four wickets to spare.
Their seamers had set up the win with a burst of five wickets on the fourth evening just as the game had started to look as though it was petering out into a draw, but it was Blackwood who dealt the killer blow with a superb knock on the final day.
Coming in at 27 for 3 with John Campbell retired hurt soon before lunch, Blackwood made England pay for their misses. He was put down twice, on 5 and on 20, and offered regular run-out chances at several points in his innings. But he batted brilliantly, pulling and cutting his way out of short-ball barrages from Jofra Archer and lofting drives over extra cover as he grew in fluency.
He gave away a chance for only his second Test hundred on 95, but the returning Campbell scrambled a single into the leg side just before 6pm to take West Indies over the line.
England needed their tailenders to hang around on the final morning and Archer in particular obliged, flashing hard to pick up three boundaries to push the target up to 200. But Mark Wood edged a cut through to Shane Dowrich backing away before Archer gloved a short ball behind, giving Shannon Gabriel a five-wicket haul and nine in the match in his first first-class game for 10 months.
That left 200 to win. Phil Simmons had stressed on the fourth evening that Kraigg Brathwaite would be “the glue” in the fourth innings, with others batting around him, so there was immediate pressure on the openers.
But perhaps Simmons hadn’t counted on Archer. Campbell survived an lbw shout when Archer speared a yorker in at his feet, but his big toe did not: he hobbled off two overs later, and spent most of the day with an ice pack on. Archer sensed an opening and burst through it, piercing Brathwaite’s tentative defence shot as he dragged one on before trapping Shamarh Brooks plumb in front with a full inswinger.
Shai Hope got up and running with a pair of elegant cover drives off James Anderson as if to tempt West Indies supporters into dreaming of a Headingley repeat, but a loose drive soon followed which Wood burst through with a full ball that seamed in to clean him up. That left West Indies 27 for 3 moments before lunch, with Campbell retired hurt, and it was difficult to envisage any other result than an England win.
But Roston Chase and Blackwood came out after lunch with determination and enough positive intent to keep the equation ticking down. Blackwood in particular rode his luck. On five, he edged a cut shot to Stokes at slip, but was reprieved by England’s captain outsmarting himself, running round towards point in anticipation only to be wrong-footed when the chance came to his left.
Blackwood, who had spent the best part of two-and-a-half years out of the side going into this series, had looked his old, frenetic self in the first innings, playing what Dom Bess said was a “rogue shot” when running down the track and slashing to mid-off. But in the run chase, he instead managed to settle into a rhythm.
He and Chase were given testing examinations against the short ball. Jos Buttler dropped a chance off Stokes when Blackwood gloved down the leg side on 20, before Zak Crawley fumbled a run-out chance in the covers to offer another reprieve. A third in as many overs arrived when Rory Burns shelled an edge in the gully – though it would not have counted as Stokes had overstepped – and Blackwood made England pay for their profligacy.
In particular, he cut and pulled purposefully, scoring the majority of his runs behind square. An upper-cut off Archer was the pick of the bunch, and he survived a brutal spell from him that accounted for Chase, caught behind off a lifter aimed at his chin. Chase’s struggles against the short ball have been well-documented, and it was a classic, calculated set-up; a yorker fired in outside off, followed by a steepling bumper he failed to evade.
But Dowrich joined Blackwood in the middle and saw them through to tea, starting busily before settling into his innings and ticking over calmly and comfortably. There was time for a twist after tea. After Blackwood fired Wood through the covers and over mid-off for two boundaries in four balls, Stokes decided that it was up to him to make the breakthrough.
He looked furious when he realised he had overstepped after Dowrich poked to slip, but made up for it next ball, reversing one away from the outside edge as Buttler took the catch behind the stumps.
Blackwood looked intent on reaching three figures, itching to take singles leading to several mix-ups with the new man Jason Holder, but continued to time the ball beautifully, upper-cutting Stokes over the cordon to move to 95. He threw away a golden opportunity for a ton, caught at mid-off for the second time in the match, but nobody was asking questions of his spot in the side after this “rogue shot”.
Campbell walked out at No. 8, eking out singles to take the equation into single figures, before he slashed a cut past gully and snuck a single off the pads to take West Indies to a famous win, with Holder, the inspirational captain, running through to seal the victory. (ESPNCricinfo)