Stokes stars as England level West Indies series

West Indies, set a nominal 312 to win, were bowled out for 198 on the fifth and final day as England levelled the three-match series at 1-1.

All-rounder Stokes made 176 in England’s first-innings 469-9 declared and a dashing 78 not out on Monday that set up another declaration by home captain Joe Root.

Stokes capped a dominant individual display as he also took two key wickets Monday after Stuart Broad’s early treble helped reduce the West Indies to 37-4.

Shamarh Brooks (62) and Jermaine Blackwood (55) kept England at bay during a fifth-wicket stand of exactly 100.

But Stokes, yet again proved a partnership breaker when his short ball had Blackwood, who made a match-clinching 95 in West Indies’ four-wicket win in the first Test at Southampton, gloving to diving wicketkeeper Jos Buttler on the stroke of tea.

From then on, it always looked likely England would finish the job, despite having no spectators to roar them on in this behind-closed-doors campaign.

“It was a brilliant week’s cricket from the outset,” Root told Sky Sports. “Going on and making a 400-plus score for the third time in four games, we’re making real progress.”

– ‘Stokes getting better and better’ –

As for Stokes’s man-of-the-match effort, Root said it “doesn’t surprise me”.

“He seems to want to keep getting better and better and we’re seeing those results out on the field.”

Stokes played down his contribution, telling the BBC: “Everyone has put their hands up and contributed to a great win.”

England’s plans for this match were thrown into disarray when fast bowler Jofra Archer had to be omitted for breaching the bio-secure rules governing a series that marks international cricket’s return from the coronavirus lockdown.

But such was England’s dominance they still won despite the whole of Saturday’s third day being washed out.

Recalled paceman Broad, angry at being rested from the series opener, struck just five balls into the West Indies second innings Monday when he had John Campbell caught behind.

Broad finished with 3-42 having rocked the West Indies in their first innings with a burst of three wickets in 14 balls.

“I’m a little disappointed with the way we batted,” said West Indies captain Jason Holder.

Chris Woakes then had West Indies dangerman Kraigg Brathwaite lbw and Broad clipped the top of Shai Hope’s off stump.

Brooks’ fine innings ended when he was plumb lbw to left-arm quick Sam Curran.

There was a worrying moment for England when Stokes could not complete his 15th over but afterwards he said: “There’s absolutely nothing to worry about.”

England spinner Dom Bess got in on the act at the finish.

Two balls after Holder drove him for six, Bess bowled the all-rounder between bat and pad with a classic off-break.

Bess ended the match when Kemar Roach was brilliantly caught by Ollie Pope at short leg.

England’s Ben Stokes hits out against the West Indies at Old Trafford. POOL/AFP/Jon Super

Earlier, Stokes, promoted to open in a quest for quick runs, took England to 129-3 declared in their second innings.

Having batted cautiously before upping the tempo in his first-innings century, Stokes produced another brilliantly judged batting display as England scored 92 runs in 11 overs on Monday.

Stokes should have been out for 29 when he slogged Shannon Gabriel to deep extra cover only for Campbell to drop a routine catch.

Stokes, England’s captain in Root’s absence for the first Test, went to fifty with a six off Gabriel that cleared the towering Holder at long-off.

The series finale, also at Old Trafford, starts on Friday, with Holder insisting: “It’s all to play for.

“This is the perfect return to cricket.”

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