Stokes (176), Sibley (120) put England in control
Ben Stokes and Dom Sibley picked up where they left off on the opening day to guide England into a commanding position at the end of the second with West Indies a wicket down and trailing on first innings by 437 runs.
Having spent the best part of two days toiling hard in the field, an unchanged West Indies outfit from the one that won the first Test by four wickets in Southampton just five days ago, faces a fresh English seam attack.
Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran all missed the last game but came into this one for the omitted Jofra Archer and the resting Mark Wood and James Anderson. Stokes, the fourth leg, will be understandably less crisp but he won’t turn down the chance to build on his contribution with the bat.
Stokes faced 356 deliveries for his 176, his longest innings by far in terms of balls faced – he faced significantly fewer balls for his highest Test score of 258. Yes, it was slow going, but not as slow as Sibley’s 372-ball 120 and Stokes produced some jolt-you-awake shots when warranted, including an indignant shove all the way over long-on off Alzarri Joseph to add to his other six off Roston Chase the previous day.
Chase could hold his head high, having claimed a five-wicket haul, but his side were left with it all to do after the stubborn-ness of Stokes and Sibley.
Coming in with his side 81 for 3 on the first day, Stokes’ knock was the intelligent innings England required. It also carried with it the air of a man keen to go on after falling in the 40s in both innings at the Ageas Bowl.
There were also 17 fours for Stokes, including the odd reverse sweep, one of which brought up his 10th Test century. It was another, attempted, reverse off Kemar Roach which brought about his undoing, but he had done his job.
The moment wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich caught Stokes was hugely significant for Roach as it broke a Test wicket drought going back to August 31, 2019, and lasting 521 deliveries, or 86.5 overs. And just as he had done into that drought with two wickets in two balls, including Virat Kohli for a golden duck in Kingston, so he came out of it in the same manner, as Woakes was caught at gully next ball for a duck.
Just as the tempo of Stokes’ knock can’t be criticised in England’s circumstances, nor can Sibley’s, as sedate as it was. Sibley had been at the crease as fellow opener Rory Burns, Zak Crawley and Joe Root fell, meaning it was hardly the time to change his circumspect nature.
Sibley resumed on Friday tantalisingly close to his second century, not out 86 with Stokes unbeaten on 59 and England 207 for 3. The pair added 57 runs in the morning session and Sibley seemed stuck in the 90s for an age. There was even the possibility of Stokes beating him to the milestone but Sibley got there first, pushing Joseph through mid-on for three.
Stokes went to lunch on 99 but brought up his ton on the third ball he faced after the break. Sibley finally holed out to Roach off Chase, ending a 260-run stand with Stokes off 568 balls, which was England’s second-longest partnership this century.
Offspinner Chase bowled 44 overs – including 27 unchanged from the over before lunch to the end of the England innings – to claim 5 for 172.
The quick turnaround between Tests was telling on West Indies’ quicks, with Shannon Gabriel moving gingerly from the start of the match and spending time off the ground in the hands of the team physio. Joseph also sought treatment for a sore biceps tendon as Roach toiled long and hard for his eventual reward, and Holder carried a heavy workload too.
With swing in the air, Holder delayed taking the second new ball until the 94th over, about an hour into the day’s play. But even then, there was no breakthrough to be had until well into the second session.
Sibley’s dismissal brought Ollie Pope to the crease for a short-lived stay, but Jos Buttler stuck around long enough to add 40 off 79 balls. After Curran had provided Chase’s fifth wicket, Dom Bess added an unbeaten 31 off 26 before Root had seen enough.
Joseph ended up returning to the middle sooner than he would have liked – as nightwatchman – when Curran had Windies opener John Campbell out lbw for 12 late in the evening session. (ESPNCricinfo)