At the end, there were just 89 deliveries to spare. The second Test, just as the first one, went down to the final session of day five as England registered a 113-run victory in Manchester. West Indies tried their best to sneak a draw but the hosts, powered by the irrepressible Ben Stokes, were simply too strong.
England had their backs to the wall heading into the contest. They’d been outplayed in the first Test and just before the start of the second game, they were dealt a massive blow as Jofra Archer was ruled out for breaching the team’s bio-secure protocols. Add to that, James Anderson had been rested and the captaincy was changing hands again as Joe Root returned. There was a lot of uncertainty around the hosts.
Once the match began, though, it was England all the way. Aided by Jason Holder’s ill-thought-out decision to field first, they posted a mammoth 469/9. The Windies were then bowled out for 287 but luckily for them, the entire third day’s play was washed out.
England were forced to go for broke in their second innings to set a target and have enough time to bowl West Indies out again. They declared at 129/3 and the visitors were left with 312 runs to win from 85 overs.
As it turned out, England went on to complete a commanding victory as the West Indies got all-out for 198 runs. There were some tense moments for the hosts on the final day but they held firm to close out the match.
Here’s a look at the key talking points from the second Test:
The Stokes show
This match will be remembered for the heroics of one man and one man only – Ben Stokes. He has been regarded as the finest fast-bowling all-rounder in the world for a while. He is now starting to stake a claim for the tag of finest cricketer in the world.
The 29-year-old was at his all-round best right through the match. In the first innings, he shifted gears seamlessly during an epic knock of 176 runs. He defended with a straight bat for hours before upping the ante when his team needed it. With the ball, he got rid of the well-set Kraigg Brathwaite to help England press forward.
As if that wasn’t enough, he dealt the killer blows to West Indies in the second innings as well. England needed quick runs to declare early on day five and once again, it was Stokes who delivered. The left-hander smashed an unbeaten 57-ball 78 after walking out to open the innings for the first time in his career.
He then provided a crucial breakthrough with the ball by getting rid of Jermaine Blackwood at the stroke of tea. It was a pivotal moment in the contest as the partnership between Blackwood and Shamarh Brooks had reached 100 runs and was starting to look threatening.
England needed someone to lead the charge in this game and Stokes stepped up big time.
Broad makes a statement
England’s bowling department was quite the mess heading into this match. The three fast bowlers who played the first Test – Anderson, Archer and Mark Wood – were all missing and had been replaced by Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran. The only constants among the bowlers were Stokes and off-spinner Dom Bess.
Broad had a point to prove. He had been vocal about his frustration at being dropped for the opener and as things turned out, he was left with the responsibility of leading the attack in the second Test. And he didn’t disappoint.
The 34-year-old played a key role in the victory for England. In West Indies’ first innings, he dismissed a dangerous-looking Brooks and then Blackwood and Shane Dowrich in a span of just ten runs. That spell was one of the turning points of the game.
But the more important contribution by Broad came in the second innings. England had 85 overs to bowl out West Indies on the last day and they needed to start with a bang to set the ball rolling. And it was Broad who got the job done. The right-arm quick bowled his classic nip-backers to remove John Campbell, Shai Hope and Roston Chase as the West Indies were left tottering at 37/4. England were well on their way after that new-ball burst.
Team effort by England
While Stokes and Broad were mighty impressive, what will please England the most is that their victory came on the back of key contributions from a number of players. Starting with skipper Root, himself. The 29-year-old was proactive in his bowling changes and had a calming influence on his team. More importantly, his presence took the load off Stokes who had admitted to feeling weighed down by the load of captaincy in the first Test.
Opener Dom Sibley proved his worth with a patient century in the first innings. The right-hander took his time at the crease, scoring 120 runs off 372 balls, but his knock helped England gain the upper hand with a huge total on the board.
Jos Buttler has received flak in recent times for not doing enough with the bat. The ‘keeper-batsman fell for a duck after opening the batting in the second innings in order to provide some fireworks, but the 40 runs he got in the first innings will give him confidence. He also did a decent job behind the stumps and didn’t leak too many extra runs.
Woakes, Curran and Bess chipped in at the right moments as well, picking 11 wickets between them in the match. Especially in West Indies’ second innings, all three of them helped get breakthroughs. Woakes got the important wicket of Brathwaite before removing Dowrich for zero. Curran’s dismissal of Brooks was critical for England as the right-hander seemed incredibly comfortable at the crease. And Bess, after scoring a quickfire 31 not-out in the first innings, rattled Holder’s stumps on the final day with a peach of a delivery.
Windies batsmen fall short
The West Indies batsmen registered a total of five half-centuries in the match, but none of those were converted into hundreds. This proved to be a major setback for them.
In their first innings, Brathwaite got 75, Brooks got 68 and Chase perished for 51. Had any of these batsmen gone on to get a big score, the outcome of the match could’ve been very different. England had two centurions in their first innings. The West Indies needed at least one in reply to remain in the game.
On day five, the fifth-wicket partnership between Brooks and Blackwood provided the most tense period for England. The two right-handers played out nearly 28 overs together to bring their team back in the contest. But a moment of brilliance from Stokes ended the partnership and handed the momentum back to the hosts.
Brooks will be the most disappointed West Indies batsman, though. The 31-year-old looked a class apart in both the innings. The ease with which he kept the England bowlers at bay must’ve raised hopes in his camp. But his efforts amounted to nothing as he couldn’t get a big score and England ran away with the win.
No show by Holder, Gabriel
The architects of West Indies’ triumph in the first Test were captain Holder and pacer Shannon Gabriel, both of whom had forgettable outings at the Old Trafford.
Holder set the game up for his team in Southampton with a superb six-wicket haul in England’s first innings. Gabriel backed that performance up with a nine-wicket match haul to bag the player of the match award. But neither of them could fire in the second Test.
Gabriel bowled 33 overs in the match and failed to pick a single wicket. The 32-year-old right-arm pacer seemed to struggle with his hamstring as well and could be a doubtful starter for the decider.
The bigger blow for West Indies, however, was Holder’s performance. He picked one wicket in the 36 overs that he bowled in the match and didn’t look nearly as threatening as he did in the first Test. With the bat, after making just two runs in the first innings, he attempted a reckless drive on day five to get clean bowled when his team needed him to show caution.
Holder is the glue that holds the West Indies team together. The players rely on him to set the tone and lead by example. If the West Indies are to bounce back in the third and final Test, which begins in Manchester on Friday, the 28-year-old will need to find his best.
Watch extended highlights of the second Test here: