SOUTHAMPTON, United Kingdom (AFP)
West Indies captain Jason Holder removed opposing skipper Ben Stokes to trigger an England collapse that saw a late flurry of wickets fall on the fourth day of the first Test at Southampton yesterday.
England were 284-8 in their second innings at stumps, a lead of 170 runs in a match that marks international cricket’s return from lockdown.
England fought back during a fourth-wicket partnership of 98 between Zak Crawley and Stokes.
But their 249-4 was soon transformed into 279-8 as five wickets fell for just 30 runs inside the final hour.
No sooner had stand-in England skipper Stokes (46) fallen to rival all-rounder Holder for the second time in the match than Crawley was caught and bowled by paceman Alzarri Joseph for a Test-best 76.
Jos Buttler then fell for nine when bowled through a huge gap between bat and pad by Joseph, who had stumps figures of 2-40.
And there was still time for Windies spearhead Shannon Gabriel (3-62) to bowl Dom Bess and Ollie Pope.
West Indies hold the Wisden Trophy but they have not won a Test series in England for 32 years.
Victory today, however, would put them 1-0 up with two to play.
“All you can do is get the two remaining wickets and bat normally,” West Indies coach Phil Simmons told reporters.
“If we bat for five hours tomorrow to chase 180-190 it’s a normal batting day, not a chase where you have to go at it.”
But teams have faltered before facing seemingly modest fourth-innings chases and Crawley told Sky Sports: “It should be tight if we bowl well today.
“We’ve definitely got the bowlers to take 10 wickets on there.”
England were still one run behind West Indies’ first -innings 318 when Crawley came to the crease.
But the 22-year-old, in his fifth Test, completed a well-made fifty when he reverse-swept off-spinner Roston Chase for four before surpassing his previous best of 66 against South Africa at Johannesburg in January.
Stokes, skippering the side in the absence of Joe Root, had already top-scored with 43 in England’s meagre first-innings 204 before leading their attack with 4-49.
But towering paceman Holder, number one ahead of Stokes in the ICC’s Test all-rounder rankings, squared up the England talisman and had him caught by Shai Hope, cleverly positioned as the finer of two gulleys for the left-handed batsman.
It was a tactical as well as personal triumph for Holder, with Simmons saying: “It’s what he does. He comes back and puts in the big spells for the team — that’s how he leads. I didn’t expect anything different.”
There was more joy for the Windies when Crawley, aiming leg side, was caught and bowled by Joseph.
England resumed on 15-0 in the first of a three-match behind closed doors series.
Chase, who took a Test-best 8-60 against England at his Barbados home ground last year, achieved the initial breakthrough yesterday when Rory Burns (42) carelessly cut him to backward point.
Dom Sibley, Burns’ opening partner, made a painstaking fifty.
The very next ball saw Sibley play on to Gabriel, only for the bowler to be denied by third umpire Michael Gough’s tight, no-ball call.
But, two balls later, Sibley — still on 50 — glanced Gabriel to Dowrich as he was yet again caught down the leg side in his fledgling Test career.
Joe Denly, competing for a place with Sibley when Root returns following the birth of his daughter for next week’s second Test at Old Trafford, needed a big score to bolster a lowly Test average of under 30.
But instead he fell tamely for 29 when chipping Chase to Holder at short midwicket.
The West Indies have made the running in this match, with Holder taking a Test-best 6-42 after losing the toss.
Kraigg Brathwaite then made 65, the opener’s first Test fifty in 22 innings, and Dowrich 61 as the tourists established a valuable first-innings lead of 114.
Main photo: West Indies bowler Shannon Gabriel (centre) celebrates with teammates after bowling England’s Ollie Pope on the fourth day of the first Test match against England at Ageas Bowl in Southampton, south-west England, yesterday. (Photos: AFP)