England, riding on a brilliant show with the bat by Ben Stokes in both innings, beat the West Indies by 113 runs in the second Test at Old Trafford, levelling the series 1-1.
Stokes, who scored an uncharacteristically patient century in the opening essay, scored a quickfire half century on the final day to set things back on track for England as well as take over the top all-rounder in the world tag from WI skipper Jason Holder.
Skipper Joe Root, back to lead the side after missing the first Test when he went to attend the birth of his second child, was in awe of his deputy and star.
“He’s Mr Incredible, I suppose,” Root said after the match.
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“I think the sky’s the limit for him really, when you watch how he goes about things, there’s no reason why he can’t keep performing this consistently,” Root said.
“I think everyone understands that we are watching a player at the peak of his powers, at the peak of world cricket, delivering time and time again,” Root said. “We have to savour that, we have to appreciate that and understand that we are — without trying to pump his tyres too much — in the presence of greatness.”
Stokes’ greatness was never in doubt even in the defeat in the opening match. Leading the side, he managed 89 runs and six wickets in Southampton and was one of the better performers for his side. In Manchester, however, Stokes seemed on a mission -- showing a resolute face on Day 1, and his usual aggressive self in the latter stages of the match.
For the record, England declared after scoring 469/9 in the first innings. The West Indies managed to score 287, avoiding the follow on. In the second innings, England scored 129 runs, setting a target of 311 for victory. The West Indies could only score 198 runs. Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes were the top wicket takers for England, while Stokes also managed three scalps in the match.
While Stokes’ performance was the prominent factor that led to the English victory, a few other players, and factors such as the infamous English summer rain, played their part too. Here is a look at three main factors that swayed things for Root and Co.
Day 1 was delayed by an hour due to rain. However, it didn’t rock the already determined English side as Dom Sibley and Stokes moved in to score 50 runs each, crushing the West Indies’ plan of running through the order after taking early wickets. The partnership between opener Sibley and Stokes moved into Day 2, eventually reaching 260 runs.
Rain came back on Day 3, forcing a complete washout. If and buts are part of cricket’s narratives, especially when played under a fickle English weather. If play was not hampered, maybe things would have panned out differently. Then again, the kind of form Stokes was in, at ease even when batters from both sides struggled to score on a less-than-ideal final day wicket, the result may not have changed come rain or shine.
The Stokes-Sibley was key for England as the first innings advantage helped them wrest the momentum as well as set a tricky target to chase on Day 5. Both batsmen were patient in their approach, beginning the partnership at a crucial juncture where they had to ensure the wickets were kept intact, and the scoreboard was also ticking.
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Stokes scored his second highest individual score in the first innings, but more than the score it was the time he spent at the crease. His 176 came off 356 balls, the highest number he has faced in a Test innings. Sibley ended Day 1 on 86 runs, only to resume the next day with poise and patience to score his maiden Test century. The right-handed opener eventually reached the mark after facing 312 balls, with just four boundaries and no sixes. By the time Sibley was dismissed, England were 341/4 and firmly in charge.
While the Windies trio -- Kraigg Brathwaite, Shamarh Brooks, and Roston Chase forced the Englishmen to bat again, it was Stokes again who took the match away from the visiting side. His stellar performance of 78 runs off 57 balls in the second innings, ensured the English posted a quick and unassailable target on Day 5, and the bowlers had ample time to bowl out the West Indies.
With the two innings, the English vice-captain overtook West Indies captain Holder as the world’s top-ranked Test all-rounder in the ICC list. Stokes ended Holder’s 18-month reign at the top spot to become England’s second player to head the allrounder’s chart after Andrew Flintoff in May 2006.
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