LORD’S, ENGLAND – The first-ever September Test at Lord’s served up 14 wickets on the opening day, as West Indies fought back from an Edgbaston-style collapse to emphasise that they will not give up easily on the pursuit of a first series win in England since 1988. Bowlers on both sides enjoyed the season of “mists and mellow fruitfulness” – though manic fruitfulness might have been more accurate, as England stumbled to 46 for 4 before being saved from further interrogation by bad light.
England’s form in Test cricket has been a matter of violent of swings, so it was perhaps appropriate that violent swing initially put them on the front foot. James Anderson produced a typically immaculate display to move to within one wicket of 500 in Tests but it was Ben Stokes who ripped the guts out of West Indies with career-best figures.
With only Kieran Powell and Shai Hope able to reach 20, West Indies were dismissed for 123 – almost as easy as ABC – inside 58 overs. Stokes bowled a devastating spell of 14.3-6-22-6 either side of tea, as West Indies capitulated from the relative security of 78 for 2 in mid-afternoon.
Holder celebrates. (Photograph: Tom Jenkins for the Guardian)
Anderson was left tantalisingly close to his personal milestone, repeatedly turning Devendra Bishoo inside out in the over before Stokes finished the innings off with two in two balls. West Indies already had plenty to contend with in the series decider, thanks to persistent cloud cover, a rain delay and one of the most prolific fast bowlers in history. Stokes’ mesmeric contribution, on top of all that, was enough to banish the optimism of Headingley.
Or was it? Jason Holder’s decision to bat appeared somewhere on the spectrum between brave and foolhardy but West Indies then tore into England beneath leaden clouds. Holder himself claimed the key wicket of Joe Root – his celebratory dash into the covers told of his joy – while Kemar Roach picked up both openers in an exacting spell.
England’s reply was only 16 deliveries old when Mark Stoneman was first to walk back to the pavilion, having nicked Roach to the keeper. An even better delivery did for Alastair Cook, with Shane Dowrich again taking the catch, before Holder pinned Tom Westley lbw for his fifth single-figure score in a row. When Powell flew to his left to clutch an outside edge off Root – in contrast to his first-innings drop at Headingley – England were 24 for 4 and rocking in the evening breeze.
Stokes and Dawid Malan had tentatively taken the score on by 22 runs when the umpires decided that the floodlights had taken over and, despite an imploring look from Holder, England’s fifth-wicket pair quickly headed for sanctuary and the promise of fighting another day.
It was certainly entertaining, though it prompted the thought that the Long Room needed a revolving door. At an autumnal Lord’s, England’s evergreen attack leader Anderson swiftly moved on to 499 Test wickets before Toby Roland-Jones justified his recall with two of his own, including that of Hope, double-centurion a week ago. Then Stokes took centre stage.
While Powell and Hope were together, adding 56 during a phlegmatic third-wicket stand – which turned out to be the best of the day – West Indies could perhaps envision a plentiful afternoon stretching out ahead on the usually fertile batting plain that is Lord’s. With the lights on, however, and conditions remaining conducive to bowling, England were able to induce the jitters that undermined the tourists so badly in the first Test at Edgbaston.
Stokes’ introduction provided the warning ripple. Generating lavish swing worthy of big-band accompaniment, Stokes unsettled Powell from the Nursery End, while Roland-Jones probed away with more subtle deviations off the pitch, finally removing Hope with a ball that shimmied and jumped from a length to be taken by Cook at slip. After dropping his third consecutive catch earlier in the morning, it was a moment of relief as well as celebration for Cook.
Having progressed to his highest score of the series, Powell then poked a return catch to Stokes as he tried to adjust late to another curving delivery.
He had at least made some runs (plural), which could not be said of Jermaine Blackwood, who had a single to his name when he tried to hit Roland-Jones into the pavilion and was bowled by a ball nipping back in.
From 87 for 5, West Indies stuttered into three figures before Stokes ripped out two more in an over. Lord’s is a ground partial to a bit of showmanship and Stokes’ delivery to Roston Chase – curling away late to the kiss the top of off stump – was worthy of the high-hat and cymbals. He followed up two balls later with another pearler to have Dowrich scooped up low by Cook, a double-intervention that brought a roar from the crowd reminiscent of when he dismissed Kane Williamson and Brendon McCullum on this ground in 2015.
West Indies limped to tea seven-down, with Bishoo riding his luck and Holder dropped at slip by Root on 5, but there was no mercy after the resumption from Stokes. He bent a fearsome inswinger back to hit Holder’s off stump, then had Roach taken in the slips – by the diving Anderson – and Shannon Gabriel castled swinging wildly at his first ball.
The captains had been greeted at the toss by a cool morning with plenty of low cloud and Root may not have been too despondent at telling his senior quicks they were bowling. Powell scored the only boundary in the first 50 minutes, before rain swept in, steering a thick edge down and wide of the slips.
Stuart Broad was the bowler on that occasion and he also saw a delivery seam in and pass straight over the stumps with Powell playing no stroke. Broad’s search for rhythm (and wickets) has been a theme of the Test summer but he bowled well without reward, only to experience soreness in his left heel and spend part of the afternoon off the field.
West Indies’ first obstacle was Anderson, who quickly claimed two of the three wickets he needed to become the sixth man to 500 in Tests. In a searching 12-over spell from England’s new-ball pair, West Indies lost Kraigg Brathwaite, another of the heroes of Headingley, to a catch at the wicket before a downpour sent the teams off for more than half an hour.
On a slowish surface, Anderson and Broad regularly beat the outside edge, a trial of patience for which Kyle Hope was ultimately unequipped, as he also tickled behind attempting to leave after the resumption.
Anderson should have removed Brathwaite on 3, when he steered a regulation edge to Cook at first slip – only for Cook to drop the simplest of catches. It was a continuation of the malaise that afflicted both sides at Headingley, and where Cook dropped two on the final day. Anderson’s frustration was palpable.
He had No. 498 a few overs later, however. Brathwaite was dragged forward and into an area where his decision-making became as cloudy as the skies above – perhaps fearful that the ball would run in at him down the slope – and he only succeeded in feathering through to his new Yorkshire team-mate Jonny Bairstow with an angled bat, as the ball straightened off the pitch.
That was the first in what turned out to be a procession. Lord’s provided the perfect start for Root’s captaincy when England began their Test summer with a crushing victory over South Africa in July, but it could yet end up as another bump on the undulating road to the Ashes.(cricinfo)