(ESPNCricinfo) — Ben Stokes, match winner, series saviour. That was the bottom line as England kept alive their quest for the Wisden Trophy with victory in the second Test to level their series against West Indies 1-1.
The hosts’ 113-run triumph was built on a towering performance with bat and ball from Stokes and means both teams start the third and final Test, also at Emirates Old Trafford, on Friday with it all to play for.
Stokes’ contrasting innings helped England into a commanding position and his ability to break up key partnerships not only helped his side take 19 wickets over the last two days, having lost the entire third day to rain, but destroyed West Indies’ chances of holding out for a draw, which would have seen them retain the trophy.
Stokes left many wondering, is there anything he can’t do? But there was more than just his contribution to like about this England performance.
To leave out three frontline bowlers in Jofra Archer, James Anderson and Mark Wood and replace them to great effect with Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran speaks to a strength in depth that will prove especially important this summer as six Test are shoe-horned into seven weeks.
Broad’s fourth-day spell, when he took 3 for 1 in 14 balls during West Indies’ first innings, sent a clear message after he was overlooked for the first Test but, more importantly, it removed three recognised batsmen in quick succession when England needed time and wickets.
Woakes also took three wickets in West Indies’ first innings and he and Broad combined brilliantly with the new ball to put the tourists in trouble early in their second.
Meanwhile, Dom Sibley, a young player scoring the second century of a Test career that is only eight matches old, did little to advertise the excitement the game can offer but did everything in his power to give England control in their first innings. His 372-ball 120 showed a maturity to stick to his way and not be pressured into forcing something to happen.
Then there was Stokes. His first innings of 176, which came from 356 balls, surprised even himself in terms of its longevity. It also pushed the England innings on where Sibley couldn’t.
Then, when England needed quick runs to shore up their position before giving themselves enough time to bowl West Indies out, it was a case of “will the real Ben Stokes please stand up?” and there he was.
Having been sent in to open for the first time in a Test on the penultimate evening and resuming on 16 the following morning, Stokes helped himself to an unbeaten 78 from 57 balls. He shared a 73-run partnership with Joe Root and was instrumental as England added 92 runs from 11 overs in the first hour before their declaration set West Indies a target of 312.
The first over of the day, from Kemar Roach, went for 14 runs, 13 of them to Stokes, including a four followed immediately by a towering six over long-off. Stokes was dropped on 29 by John Campbell at deep extra cover off the bowling of Shannon Gabriel in one of the more damaging West Indies fielding blunders, of which there were a handful.
The declaration also gave England 85 overs in which to bowl West Indies out and time to access the second new ball, available after 80 overs. In the end, it wasn’t needed as West Indies were bowled out inside 71 overs.
By lunch on the final day, Broad and Woakes had West Indies 25 for 3. The first wicket, Campbell caught behind off Broad in the first over of the innings, almost wasn’t recorded. Beaten outside off stump, Campbell attempted a loose drive which was collected by Jos Buttler, who showed no reaction whatsoever. As Broad appealed, Root looked as un-moved as the umpire, but he signalled for a review with barely half a second to spare and Ultra-Edge showed a clear spike to overturn the not-out decision.
Broad had suggested the night before that Kraigg Brathwaite’s would be a vital wicket and Woakes delivered it, lbw. Broad then cut down Shai Hope with a beauty that jagged in off the seam between bat and pad to clatter into the top of off stump.
Broad struck again in the fourth over after lunch when he had Roston Chase out lbw and it looked as though Woakes could have had the threatening Shamarh Brooks caught behind for 17 when the batsman fended to Buttler but was given not out and England opted not to review with replays later suggesting the batsman may have gloved the ball.
Brooks and Jermaine Blackwood set to work, building a 100-run partnership that had the potential for subborn-ness, albeit with a lot of overs to see out, until that man Stokes reappeared.
Stokes even tried to chase down a Blackwood four struck off his own bowling when the batsman found a gaping hole at mid-off. And while Stokes’ effort was in vain that time, he had more to offer with when his short ball, aimed at Blackwood’s ribs, struck the glove and ballooned to Buttler, who took a good diving catch.
Blackwood was gone for 55 and Stokes had ended another solid union, just as he had done in West Indies’ first innings when he removed Brathwaite with a caught-and-bowled that broke a 76-run partnership with Brooks.
Brooks backed up his first-innings 68 with 62 in the second as Woakes dismissed Shane Dowrich, who made a pair. But when Curran had Brooks out lbw, it fell to Jason Holder, the West Indies captain and star allrounder, to save his side from defeat.
But when the offspin of Dom Bess came to the fore, a gem smashing into middle stump from outside off with Holder on 35 and West Indies still needing 129 runs versus England’s requirement of two wickets, it was only a matter of time – and the hosts had plenty of that – before they claimed victory.
Of course, Stokes was in the action almost until the end, dismissing tailender Alzarri Joseph, before Ollie Pope’s spectacular juggled catch at short leg off the bowling of Bess accounted for Roach, the last man out.
The only worry for England was the fact that Stokes stopped bowling in the middle of an over in apparent discomfort. Given his star turn in this match, England will be keen to have him fit for the series decider.