The West Indies came out of the blocks with a fine performance to win the first Test of the summer against England. Jason Holder put forward a captain’s display to lead his team to victory, producing his best Test match figures with the ball to bowl the hosts out for 204.
It set up the match for the tourists, who put a competitive first-innings total on the board. Although, England fought back to a degree, Shannon Gabriel turned the momentum back in the Windies’ favour with another devastating spell of fast bowling.
Jofra Archer almost rallied the Three Lions, but a superb innings of 95 from Jermaine Blackwood drove the tourists towards their winning target of 200 on the final day.
Holder and his men are now only one win away from securing their first series win in England since 1988. The tourists were the better side at the Ageas Bowl but will have to raise their game in Manchester.
England paid the price for a poor decision by stand-in skipper Ben Stokes to bat first in overcast conditions. They were never able to recover to get ahead in the contest. Joe Root will return for the second Test and he will have to hit the ground running for England to level the series.
Their batting unit was exposed once again in-home conditions, while their bowlers were not on point in the first innings. Changes could be forthcoming for the second Test.
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England were disappointing in the opening match of the series. They were far from the side that beat South Africa so convincingly earlier this year. However, they have often been slow starters, losing the opening Test of their last four series’.
Root’s return will shore up the batting ranks that were exposed in the first innings. Joe Denly may have to be the man to make way after suffering another frustrating outing. The 34-year-old made two decent starts but was unable to push on beyond the 30-run mark.
Zak Crawley scored an impressive half-century and should make the move up to number three, allowing Root to slide into the ranks at four. Elsewhere in the line-up, Jos Buttler might be on his final chance. He has not been the same player against the red ball as he has against the white. Ben Foakes is waiting in the wings to don the gloves should Buttler fail again.
Stuart Broad was fuming after being left out of the starting line-up by the selectors. Mark Wood and Archer were selected ahead of the 34-year-old. Both failed to deliver during the first innings, and although Archer found his rhythm in the second, it was not enough for the home side.
England now face a difficult decision on whether to recall Broad for the contest at Old Trafford. Wood may have to be the one to make way, but a lot will depend on the type of pitch prepared in Manchester, which does favour quicker bowlers more often than not. The series could hinge on their choice.
The West Indies were outstanding at the Ageas Bowl, especially with the ball to secure a six-wicket win. Holder was sensational leading from the front, earning his best figures in Test cricket with 6-42 in the first innings. He and the rest of the attack were relentless to put England on the back foot, ensuring that the tourists had control of the game.
Kraigg Brathwaite and Shane Dowrich held their composure with the bat to score important half-centuries keep the Windies ahead in the game. Gabriel then took centre stage after an England fightback, skittling the tail to claim the sixth five-wicket haul of his career.
After an initial wobble at the beginning of their chase, Blackwood was excellent and deserved a century. He just missed out, falling five runs short, but his effort ensured the Windies would claim the win.
They now face the task of building on their impressive performance. The Windies have put in excellent outings in isolation in the past. On this occasion they cannot afford to rest on their laurels. The bowling attack was outstanding and must remain at the same standard in Manchester.
Their line and lengths were perfect and refused to give the England batsmen room to thrive. All eyes will be on Holder, Kemar Roach, Alzarri Joseph and Gabriel to lead the Windies to victory.
Old Trafford tends to suit the quicker bowlers, which should appeal to the West Indies. It will allow them to retain their four-man pace attack they deployed successfully at the Ageas Bowl. The pitch has not been used this season so it will be unlikely to break up over five days of action. There is rain forecast ahead of the contest at Old Trafford, but five days should be unaffected by the elements.
The West Indies have a huge opportunity ahead of them to defeat the Three Lions and claim their first Test series in England in 32 years. They were the better side in Southampton and were clinical when they needed to be to secure the victory.
The return of Root will hand the home side back one of the best batsmen in the world and his impact alone will turn the tide. Expect a stronger bowling performance from England this time around. The Three Lions have only lost one of their last 12 matches at Old Trafford, although that defeat did come last year against Australia. However, given their desperation and ability to bounce back, take England to square the series.
England to beat West Indies 2nd Test – 1.40 Betway