Deadline: July 24, 2020 at 3:30 PM IST
Venue: Emirates Old Trafford, Manchester
The West Indies bowlers were unlucky that they could not make any significant impact on the opening day of the second Test at Manchester. Ben Stokes and Dom Sibley left everything outside off, eventually registering their slowest hundreds. The pitch appeared slow at first, but as the match progressed, the ball did more than expected. The English bowlers reaped rewards and West Indies were on the wrong side of the result.
All in all, the pitch at Manchester has sent a reminder that Test cricket can still be played in an old-fashioned way.
By English standards, the weather on Friday looks cheerful but the next four days are likely to be – for want of a better word – gloomy.
Ben Stokes has dethroned Jason Holder as the No. 1 all-rounder in ICC Test Rankings and has jumped to No. 3 in the batting chart – only after Steve Smith and Virat Kohli. He was the best fantasy player by remarkable margins in the first two Tests, and going by his form since 2019, there is no iota of doubt that anyone would be able to best him in the final Test.
Dom Sibley’s stance won’t impress you, but his recent form has made him valuable in the world of fantasy cricket. Ever since his 133* at Cape Town earlier this year, his scores read 36, 44, 44, 0, 50, 120.
It took a West Indian spinner 15 years to grab a five-wicket haul in England. Before Roston Chase’s 5 for 120 in the previous Test, it was Chris Gayle (5 for 34) who had achieved the feat in 2004 at Edgbaston. Overall, Chase has a phenomenal record against England: 381 runs including a hundred and 22 wickets including two five-wicket hauls. It is safe to say that he is more than a handy player.
Jason Holder had a tough time in the second Test – by numbers, his toughest since 2018. He managed a mere wicket in 36 overs. Although nothing went his way, he did what he usually does best. To make matters worse, he even dropped a regulation catch in the slips.
Joe Root could not make noteworthy contributions with the bat, but his captaincy gave England a much-needed win. However, his numbers at Manchester and overall stature cannot be overlooked: he scored a double-hundred against Pakistan in 2016, and barring that, has 4 half-centuries in 5 Tests.
Shamarh Brooks and Jermaine Blackwood have rubbished the talks about West Indies’ middle-order being weak. Both have scored runs in testing times: while Brooks likes choosing his strokes wisely, Blackwood knows no fear.
Stuart Broad is back and how! He struck every time England needed a breakthrough, be it dismissing Brooks in the first innings or making early inroads on the final day. He needs 9 more wickets to join the 500 club. If the weather permits, he might as well attain the feat at Manchester.
If Shannon Gabriel takes the centre stage, Kemar Roach’s wickets column remains dry. If Roach takes the limelight, Gabriel plays a supporting role. To put things into perspective, both are yet to strike in unison.
England: Rory Burns, Dom Sibley, Zak Crawley, Joe Root (c), Ben Stokes, Ollie Pope, Jos Buttler (wk), Chris Woakes, Sam Curran, Dom Bess, Stuart Broad
West Indies: Kraigg Brathwaite, John Campbell, Shai Hope, Shamarh Brooks, Roston Chase, Jermaine Blackwood, Shane Dowrich (wk), Jason Holder (c), Alzarri Joseph, Kemar Roach, Shannon Gabriel