International cricket made it’s return after the Covid-19 pandemic as England hosted the West Indies in a three match Test series. It grabbed the attention of cricket lovers in both nations as well as neutrals alike, as the cricket loving world had been starved of the sport for over two months.
As with other sporting events fortunate enough to resume, it was played behind closed doors with no fans allowed, but the play on the field was no less intense, passionate & thrilling.
In this piece, a full summary of each Test will be covered.
1. First Test, Rose Bowl, Southampton:
England were captained by Ben Stokes for the first time in his carear as regular skipper Joe Root was absent due to the birth of his child. The superstar all-rounder called right at the toss and elected to take first strike. The rain was the big talking point at the end of the first day as only 17.4 overs were possible and the hosts closed on 35-1, with Dom Sibley being the only man dismissed by Shannon Gabriel.
The second day was all about West Indies captain Jason Holder and Gabriel, as the pair took all 10 wickets, to dismiss the home team for a total of 204. The burden of captaincy did not seem to affect Stokes, as he top-scored with 43 for his side. The Caribbean men were able to withstand the English bowling(with the dropped Stuart Broad looking on) ending the day on a solid 57-1.
While the away side ripped through England, the West Indies batting got the best of the conditions and racked up 318, with a lead of 114 runs. Kraig Braithwaite and Shane Dowrich both made 60’s, while all-rounder Roston Chase made 47. Any lead of over 150 was going to be significant and England knew that and they batted with purpose and poise. Zac Crawley scored at a nice clip of just under 60 to top score with 76 and the home side had a lead of exactly 200.
Given the conditions and score-board pressure, West Indies were definitely the underdogs to reach that total. It seemed to be holding true to form when they were teetering on 27-3 with the top order dismissed. However, the middle-order stood up! Jermaine Blackwood who had been a torn in the English side previously made a superb 95 to lead the way and it was left to Joel Campbell(who returned after having to leave the field with an injury) that nudged a Stokes delivery to score the winning single.
It was an unexpected series lead for the away side, but one fully deserved! Could they carry it on?
2. Second Test, Old Trafford, Manchester.
Holder won the toss this time, but unbelievably(and NOT for the first time in this series), choose to field first. England’s batting were never going to fail a second time and they piled on the runs with centuries from Sibley and Stokes to reach a total of 469-9 declared. Truth be told, both men played measured innings with even Stokes being sub-dued, however the runs were on the board. Gabriel who was the man of the match in the first Test, went wicket-less and it was a sign of things to come.
No play was possible on the third day and with the West Indies on 32-1, it was set up nicely for one of the teams to grab the game by the scruff of the neck. Day four of this match was arguably the most even of the entire series. The Men in Maroon made a concerted effort to attack the bowling with as much due diligence as possible.
Braithwaite, Shemar Brooks and Chase all managed to pass the 50 run mark, but tellingly none of them carried on to get to that all important century mark. The returning Broad grabbed three wickets, while Chris Woakes also made his mark and their team had a lead of 118 runs. With quick runs the order of the day Stokes opened the batting and cracked a belligerent 78 off just 57 balls, which included four 4’s and three 6’s, as England declared after just 19 overs.
Their lead was 312 and with 80 overs remaining, England had all the time required to go full throttle at the West Indies. As in the first innings, the English bowled in partnerships and it proved effective. Broad probably playing with a chip on his shoulder picked up Campbell and and while Brooks and yet again Blackwood offered staunch resistance, it was not enough.
The final nail in the coffin came courtesy of a fantastic catch by Olie Pope off spinner Dom Bess to dismiss Kemar Roach, which just happens to be the featured picture of this article. Quite fitting no?
1-1 and all to play for in the third and final Test.
3. Third Test, Old Trafford, Manchester.
Remember the first line of the second Test summary? History repeated itself and inexplicably Holder yet again made the decision to send in the opposition to bat after winning the toss. It would be a decision that his team never recovered from.
Rory Burns laid a solid foundation with a 147 ball 57 and Pope and the always seemingly under-pressure Jos Butler made a 140 run partnership that guided their team to a commanding 369 run first innings total. At their first turn at the crease, West Indies could only muster a paltry 197, with Holder top-scoring with 46. Broad was the destroyer in chief as he rolled back the years and again proved his point again with 6-31.
With heavy rain forecast on the fourth day, the English let the hammer down on the opposition’s bowling and the top order did all the damage. Burns, Sibley and Root all passed 50 as they led their team to 226-2 declared, a lead of 399. It meant a testing few overs in the evening for the Windies batsmen, a test their would ultimately fail, as they ended proceedings on 10-2, although nightwatchman Roach was one of those dismissed.
The meteorologists got it 100% spot on as there was no play possible on the entirety of the penultimate day of the Test. It only delayed the inevitable though, as Broad and Woakes shared the nine wickets between themselves to lead their team to victory. The latter’s Test credentials has at times been questioned, but the Warwickshire player proved his worth to the team. Fittingly it was Broad that grabbed the final scalp having Blackwood caught behind and the West Indies were bowled out for just 129.
England had in winning the series re-claimed the Wisden Trophy after the West Indies won the silverware in 2019. It will be the last time contests between the nations will be called as such, as going forward, it will be known as the Botham-Richards trophy.
The English now move up to third on the World Test Championship standings behind India and Australia, while the West Indies have now not won a Test series in England since 1988 and lost their last seven visits to the shores of the inventors of this great game.
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