Blackwood guides West Indies to a win

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12 Jul 2020 | 09:51 AM
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Somesh Agarwal

Blackwood guides West Indies to a win

With the figures of 9/137 in the match, Shannon Gabriel was adjudged the man of the match

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End of the game
West Indies win by 4 wickets

The record stands. West Indies are yet to lose a Test chasing 200 or less. It is only the second win for West Indies in England since the turn of the century. But, with no travelling fans to support the visitors, the occasion seemed subdued.

It looked only a matter of time after Jermaine Blackwood clobbered Mark Wood twice in the sixth over after Tea. Once past extra cover, second over mid-off with disdain. 

Ben Stokes tried his best to wave his magic wand once again by dismissing Shane Dowrich twice in an over, once to a no-ball. There were moments of a little panic later with Jason Holder overestimating the speed of his players while running. But, it was a mere formality and West Indies kept docking the deficit away.

Having fun in the middle, Blackwood played an upper-cut to Stokes to reach 95. The fun turned into a heartbreak after he failed to clear the mid-off fielder a ball later. 

Coming back to bat while nursing his toe, the glory of hitting the winning run belonged to John Campbell. With his captain standing with him at the other end. 

Shannon Gabriel received the official player of the match award for his match figures of 9/137. But, it took a complete team effort that included three half-centuries and two five-wicket hauls to fight Stokes and his men in their own backyard.

For the new and more mature West Indies unit, the post-match celebrations were subtle. For they know that the job on this tour has only just begun.

Afternoon Session
West Indies: 143/4 (Need 57 runs to win)

There is a common saying in Test cricket. You cannot win a Test in a session but can lose it. The way the West Indies batsmen have reacted after a sombre morning session, that saying needs a look in.

The session belonged to the West Indians only, no matter which side they were playing for. The Englishmen contributed only while messing up every opportunity that came their way.

Throughout the session, they offered three chances to Jermaine Blackwood. First, when he was on five. Ben Stokes was in a hurry to move to his right expecting a cut, only for the ball to take an edge instead and fly past where he initially stood. Second, when he was on 20 when Jos Buttler failed to collect a tickle on the leg side. Umpire gave it as leg byes but the reviews showed a faint edge.

Third when he was on 29, when Roston Chase called for a quick single after bunting the ball to the cover-point region. Hesitating, both batsmen were almost at the non-striker’s end. Running in, Zak Crawley failed to gather the ball, providing a chance for Blackwood to complete the run. 

Before this Test, Blackwood had played only one Test for West Indies since 2017. He made it into the side because of two reasons. First, because key players pulled out of the tour. And second, as he was the leading run-scorer in the West Indies domestic competition this season.

Between all the chances there was a rhythm to his batting and some productive shots. Most hurtful of them was a slap to a James Anderson delivery above his head.  

Dominating the session was a 73-run partnership between Roston Chase and Jermaine Blackwood. It pulled West Indies out of dearth. At around a quarter of an hour before Tea, a Jofra Archer bumper that bounced to exactly where he wanted it to ended Chase’s innings. A similar one to Shane Dowrich had him caught at slips only for the reviews to redeem a West Indies’ player yet again.

With a 104-run session, the complexion of the game has changed. Going by the performances this morning, it seems that only a West Indian can win it for either side.

Morning Session
West Indies: 35/3 (Need 165 runs to win)

It has been Jofra Archer’s morning so far. It started with the bat as he used the proverbial long handle to add 18 crucial runs. This ensured that the target for the West Indies touched the psychological 200-run mark. With the ball, he took two wickets before West Indies could get into double digits.

It took four days for the England bowlers to work out the length for this pitch. In the first spell of the first innings, Archer bowled 55.6% balls in the good and full-length area. In this innings, this increased to 73.3%. 

As if bowling the last over of a T20 match, Archer started with a yorker. It did not give him a wicket but resulted in the next best thing. John Campbell walked off the ground with a broken toe. The left-right alliance ended.

There was a plan to bowl really full to Kraigg Brathwaite. A reluctant forward mover, he was happy to score off the balls at his pads or his waist in the first innings. In this innings, with a lazy attempt at a forward defence from an Archer in-swinger, he could only manage to guide the ball back to his stumps.

The fielder at short leg was there, but only as a bluff. No batsman fresh at the crease would want to face balls that he needs to play at. Not least on a final day chase. It is exactly what Shamarh Brooks received from Archer. Bowling below 85 miles per hour, he bowled an in-swinger at good length that caught Brooks in front of his wickets. Two wickets for Archer inside four overs of his spell. So much for breaking your back bowling short without any rewards throughout the first innings.

Taking a leaf out of Archer’s book, Mark Wood too ignored the need for speed and bounce. Bowling full, he cleaned up Shai Hope. West Indies three down in terms of wickets and another man down to an injury.

In their rich history, West Indies have never lost a Test chasing a target of 200 or below. It will take something special from here to keep that record intact.

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