England bounced back against the West Indies in the second Test, securing a 113-run win at Old Trafford, squaring the series with one match remaining. Ben Stokes was the star of the show for the home side with a brilliant performance.
The 29-year-old set up the game with his 10th Test match century in the first innings before adding a fifty in the second. Stokes was on point with the ball as well, notching the crucial wicket of Jermaine Blackwood to pave the way for England’s triumph on the final day.
The all-rounder will be determined to finish off the series with another strong performance to lead the Three Lions to victory and the Wisden Trophy.
The West Indies were put on the back foot by Stokes and Dominic Sibley and were never in a position to fight back. There were opportunities to salvage a draw, especially after day three was wiped out due to rain.
However, the visitors were unable to stifle the England attack for long enough. There were decent outings from Shamarh Brooks along with Kraigg Brathwaite and Blackwood, but the Windies will need to raise their game to secure their first overseas win. The final match will be in familiar surroundings at Old Trafford, which has given both teams the opportunity to size up conditions.
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The Three Lions have been notorious slow-starters in Test series over the past 12 months. It takes time for them to find their feet out in the middle, losing the opening match of their last four series.
More often than not, Joe Root’s men have responded, and they duly put in an accomplished display to square the series. After the loss of early wickets in their first innings, Sibley and Stokes were sensational, using patience at the crease to post a mammoth total.
England have struggled to score over 400 at home in Test cricket over the last four years, but they are beginning to trend in the right direction. Rory Burns, Zak Crawley, Ollie Pope and Root failed to fire, although the batting line-up should remain consistent for the next contest.
Jos Buttler has perhaps one game to save his Test career. He was shunted up the order to look for quick runs in the second innings but failed once again. He has not thrived against the red ball, while Ben Foakes will be knocking on the door for the Pakistan series.
Broad proved a point after being left out of the opener. The 34-year-old claimed six wickets in the contest, including three in an important burst on the fourth day to blow the game open. He will not be ousted from the side for the final Test, leaving England with a selection headache.
James Anderson should return, which may leave Chris Woakes or Sam Curran vulnerable. Jofra Archer will be available after being suspended for breaking the bio-secure regulations for the second Test. However, the Three Lions did not miss the paceman and further time on the sidelines may benefit Archer in the long run regarding his behaviour.
The Windies were outplayed at Old Trafford and may need to rotate their options for the final Test. Shannon Gabriel was struggling with his fitness after playing back-to-back matches. A third on the bounce may be too much for the 32-year-old to handle. Chemar Holder could come into the fold to replace the seamer in a like-for-like swap, although Rahkeem Cornwall may get the nod to provide a further spin option outside of Roston Chase.
Kemar Roach’s wait for wicket ended in the first innings and he appeared to be finding his form. The 32-year-old will have to operate at the peak of his powers to allow the Windies to leave England with a series victory. Jason Holder was solid in the second Test, although he too looked a tad jaded. Alzarri Joseph has been underwhelming and looks short of pace. The 23-year-old still can end the tour on a high note with a match-winning performance that he is capable of in Manchester.
The Windies’ batsmen have performed well without going on to get the big score. Only Shai Hope has been poor, failing to pass 25 in his four innings. The 26-year-old scored two centuries in a match-winning effort at Headingley three years ago. Since then he has not performed to the standard expected of his ability and could be playing for his future in the team.
There are not a lot of options to replace Hope in the side other than elevating Brooks or Blackwood in the order. Brathwaite, Blackwood and Brooks have been impressive for the Windies, but they need a three-figure score from at least one of their batsmen in the decider to have hope of forcing a victory.
The forecast does not look overly encouraging for the weekend in Manchester, which could wipe out two days of the contest. As a result, the chances of victory for either side will be in jeopardy. The wicket and outfield were fairly slow at Old Trafford and was not conducive to quick-scoring. There may be an element of turn for the spinners, but it should play fairly true against the seam bowlers.
A result might be hindered because of the weather, but if the forecast proves to be incorrect then there should be some exciting cricket in the offing. England appear to have gone up a gear and have Stokes in the form of his life with bat and ball.
It all bodes well for Root’s men with Anderson to return to bolster the seam ranks. The West Indies came out firing, but with a lack of options in their pace attack to ease their tiring limbs, expect England to come out on top to claim the win and the series.
England to beat West Indies 3rd Test – 1.57 Betway