After a battering by, above all, Ben Stokes in Bridgetown, Barbados today, Kraigg Brathwaite’s West Indies remained unbowed. And Brathwaite and Shamarh Brooks will resume the West Indian first innings in the Second Apex Test on Day Three tomorrow with one number uppermost in their minds: 308.
That is the total they will need to reach to make Joe Root’s England bat again after the tourists declared their first innings closed just after tea on a daunting 507 for 9. And they will also be thinking 436, the number of runs still required to reach their first target, after Brathwaite and Brooks steered them from 14 for 1 after eight balls to the comparative solidity of 71 for 1 by the close of play.
On a day when Kemar Roach moved one ahead of Garry Sobers’ 235 on the list of West Indies all-time highest wicket-takers, there were quite a few positives for Brathwaite’s men. But none of them came before lunch. Roach’s 236th victim was England’s century-maker, whom he trapped LBW in the 14th over after lunch.
“Amazing,” the 33-year-old veteran said afterwards, “It is good to be amongst the greats […] I wrote my name on the wall above Sir Garry when it comes to wickets. It is a fantastic achievement man. I am happy for that […] No better place to do it [than at] the home of cricket in the Caribbean,”
England resumed on 244 for 3 with Root on 119 not out, Stokes new to the crease and the second old ball a mere four overs old. WI might well have fancied their chances of making early inroads. But Stokes had other ideas.
His 10th Test century came against WI in Manchester in July 2020 and, on a track described as very ‘docile’ by West Indies assistant coach Roddy Estwick and ‘disheartening’ by former West Indies ace pacer Curtly Ambrose, number 11 beckoned.
The left-hander began slowly, taking 24 balls for his first six runs. But once he clubbed Roach through cover for his second boundary, he became a man possessed, crashing boundaries on both sides of the wicket, with booming drives and reverse sweeps.
He contributed 89 to the fourth-wicket partnership with Root by lunch and threatened at one stage to get to three figures before the interval.
At the other end, Root, with a massive 119-run head start and eight centuries to his name since Stokes’ last, settled for second fiddle.
The gifted allrounder got to 5,000 runs on the way to a brutal almost-run-a-ball 120, speckled with 11 fours and 6 sixes, including a trio of boundaries and an almighty six in a single over from Alzarri Joseph.
The onslaught ended when, perhaps remembering a famous Stokes vs Brathwaite over from the 2016 World Cup, he tried to smash the West Indies captain over the boundary for a third successive time.
He failed to clear Brooks at long-off.
Speaking after his belligerent knock, Stokes said he “was thinking quite far ahead and thought it would be good to have a bowl tonight with big runs on the board.”
“You always feel pretty good when you get 100,” he added. “I thought trying to put pressure back onto the West Indies bowlers was the way to do things. I give a lot of the credit to Joe [Root] and Dan [Lawrence] for the way they played yesterday. They set things up and let the middle order free their arms.”
By the time he departed, the score was 424 for 6, Roach having claimed Root (153 off 216, 14 x 4) LBW just after lunch and Joseph inducing a mistimed pull from a somewhat off-colour Jonny Bairstow (20 off 38, 3 x 4) which Nkrumah Bonner swallowed on the midwicket boundary.
Chris Woakes (41 off 57, 3 x 4) and Ben Foakes (33 off 64, 1 x 4) struck a few lusty blows but although the West Indian bowlers managed not a single maiden in the 77 overs after the 73rd, the lower order could not sustain the earlier momentum.
So when Leach gave Permaul (3/126) his third scalp and Joshua Da Silva his second stumping victim, Root called a halt, leaving the WI with a mountain to climb.
Between them, Lancashire’s 25-year-old Saqib Mahmood and Yorkshire’s 24-year-old Matt Fisher have 46 first-class matches but not a single Test. With his second ball, though, the Yorkshireman wrote his name into Test lore, taking John Campbell’s edge to spark joyful celebrations among his teammates.
But after Fisher’s initial success, neither Woakes (5-3-17-0) nor Mahmood (4-2-3-0) nor Stokes (3-0-3-0) could dislodge the resolute West Indian skipper and his countryman in the 25 overs left in the day’s play. Root gave nine of them to Leach’s left-arm slow stuff and another one to off-spinner Dan Lawrence (1-0-3-0), who had surprisingly removed the obdurate Bonner very late on the third day in Antigua.
Leach looked to be able to extract rather more turn out of the track than Permaul had and Root surrounded the batsmen with close catches in a bid to break the partnership before the end of the day’s play. No luck.
Leach and company will have to try again tomorrow, with the number uppermost in their minds 19. That is how many wickets they must take over the next three days to go 1-0 up in the three-match series.
(SUMMARISED DAY TWO SCORES)
England 1st Inns: 507 for 9 declared (150.5 overs) (Joe Root 153, Ben Stokes 120, Dan Lawrence 91, Chris Woakes 41; Veerasammy Permaul 3/126, Kemar Roach 2/68, Jayden Seales 1/55)
West Indies 1st Inns: 71 for 1 (27 overs) (Shamarh Brooks 31*, Kraigg Brathwaite 28*, Matthew Fisher 1/18, Jack Leach 9-4-21-0)