Sunday, 5 December 2021

Ton-up Stokes rides his luck against Windies

Ton-up Stokes

LEEDS: England’s Ben Stokes made the most of being dropped twice to score a hundred that took the shine off an improved bowling display by the West Indies on the first day of the second Test at Headingley.

Stokes’s score of exactly 100 was the cornerstone of England’s modest 258 all out. Yet a good day for the West Indies, 19 for one in reply at stumps, could have been so much better. Both Stokes and England captain Joe Root, who made 59 after winning the toss, were dropped in the slips in single figures. Stokes was missed again on 98, with the three errors effectively costing the West Indies some 142 runs.

Recalled fast bowler Shannon Gabriel led the attack with four wickets for 51 runs in 17 overs and new-ball partner Kemar Roach took four for 71 in 19.5. This was still an encouraging display by the West Indies given their utterly inept performance in the field during an innings and 209-run defeat inside three days in the inaugural day/night Test in Britain at Edgbaston last week that saw them go 1-0 down in this three-match series.

Conditions in what was a standard red-ball clash looked set fair for batting when Root won the toss on a straw-coloured pitch beneath blue skies. Yet England still slumped to 71 for four shortly after lunch. Gabriel had bowled 24 no-balls in a pink-ball warm-up fixture against Derbyshire prior to the first Test.

But he soon found his range in Leeds. Alastair Cook, who made 243 at Edgbaston, fell for 11 on Friday when England’s all-time leading Test run-scorer edged Gabriel low to Kyle Hope at third slip. Both Tom Westley and Mark Stoneman, each looking to cement their Test places, were dismissed cheaply by Roach to leave England struggling at 37 for three.

They should have been 44 for four when Root nicked Gabriel only for Kieran Powell to drop the routine chance at first slip. When Dawid Malan, fresh from a maiden Test fifty at Edgbaston, played onto West Indies captain Jason Holder for eight, England were, however, 71 for four. But with England on 100 for four, second slip Kraigg Brathwaite dropped Stokes off Roach. To make matters worse for the West Indies, the edge went for four and left-handed batsman Stokes then drove Roach to the extra-cover rope.

 Root, leading England on his Yorkshire home ground for the first time, equalled South Africa star AB de Villiers’s all-time record of fifties in 12 consecutive Tests when he swept recalled leg-spinner Devendra Bishoo for four.

But there was no repeat of his Edgbaston century, with Root toe-ending a sweep off Bishoo to Jermaine Blackwood at slip. Yorkshire’s Jonny Bairstow, who has rescued England from numerous collapses, fell for just two when Holder, leading by example, held an excellent low slip catch off Gabriel to leave the hosts 152 for six.

Stokes and fellow left-handed batsman Moeen Ali (22) counter-attacked after tea in a brisk partnership of 68. But Stokes, two runs shy of a century, mistimed a drive off Roach only for Gabriel to drop a simple chance at mid-on, an error met with a howl of anguish by his luckless fellow paceman.

Stokes took two off the next ball to complete his sixth hundred in 28 Tests and first against the West Indies in 122 balls with 17 fours. But soon afterwards he was caught behind trying to pull off Gabriel. The bowler and the often fiery Stokes appeared to exchange words before the batsman walked off.

Wicket-keeper Shane Dowrich then dropped a sitter but Stuart Broad, the reprieved batsman, was still yorked for nought by Gabriel as England lost their last three wickets on 258. That left West Indies with a tricky 12 overs to bat but they lost just one wicket before stumps, with Powell caught by Cook at first slip off James Anderson.

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