Sibley &  Stokes put England on top against West Indies

first_imgBy Stephan ShemiltBBC Sport at Emirates Old TraffordDOM Sibley and Ben Stokes batted England into a strong position on an attritional first day of the second Test against West Indies.Sibley inched his way to 86 not out from 253 balls, adding an unbroken 126 with Stokes, who batted beautifully for his unbeaten 59.In closing on 207-3, England recovered from being reduced to 29-2 by off-spinner Roston Chase removing Rory Burns and Zak Crawley with successive balls either side of lunch.Not only that, but the home side dealt with the disruption of dropping Jofra Archer for a breach of the bio-secure protocols.Pace bowler Archer was left out after travelling to his Brighton home in between the first Test in Southampton and this game at Emirates Old Trafford.Without him, England fielded an entirely different pace attack to the one that lost the series opener, but it was their batsmen who were thrust into the action when West Indies won the toss on a murky day in Manchester.The touring pace bowlers, so impressive in the six-wicket win at the Ageas Bowl, looked weary and were not helped by their fielders, who dropped Sibley twice.West Indies also face the prospect of having to bat last on sluggish pitch that is already offering turn and some uneven bounce.Archer indiscretion dominates slow dayArcher’s omission was announced three hours before play was due to begin. Without it, this would have gone down as an unremarkable day of Test cricket.The bio-secure, behind-closed-doors environment in Southampton was masked by the quality of the match, while the openness of the ground provided life from the outside world.This may yet mature into a similarly compelling contest, but the urban, enclosed nature of the impressively redeveloped Old Trafford resulted in a sense of claustrophobia.A crowd, usually so boisterous in Manchester, was missed, while the conditions – leaden skies and a tacky surface – was not conducive to thrilling cricket.The weather prevented any action before 12:30 BST, and the players were still out there when the sun finally appeared at 19:30.England had much the better of it, vindicating captain Joe Root’s view that he would have batted on winning the toss, rather than unleashing a new-look pace attack of Stuart Broad, Chris Woakes and Sam Curran on a day that would have been ideal for them.Sibley grinds it outSibley is unlikely to earn plaudits for his style, but the manner in which he values his wicket has been needed by England not only here, but for so long in their search for a reliable opening pair.He dropped anchor in a vigil that mainly included leaving anything outside off stump and shovelling the ball to the leg side any time West Indies bowled straight. His first boundary did not come until the 91st ball he faced, and only 14 of his runs were scored in front of square on the off side.He saw all of Burns, Crawley and Root gift their wickets away. Burns played down the wrong line to be lbw to Chase, Crawley softly turned his first ball to leg slip, and Root edged a wild drive off Alzarri Joseph to second slip.England skipper Root caught in the slips for 23At 81-3, England were teetering, only for Stokes to join Sibley. When Stokes lofted Chase for a straight six, it ended a period of more than an hour without a boundary, during which time Sibley was dropped at short leg off Chase on 44.While Stokes took time to find some fluency, he was never troubled, and it brief flashes of his strokeplay provided the highlights of a day when England hit only 11 fours and one six.On a rare occasion that Sibley, on 68, was drawn into playing outside off stump by Shannon Gabriel, West Indies captain Jason Holder could not hold on to a straightforward chance at second slip.A struggle for weary WindiesAfter their pace bowlers bowled with such incision in Southampton, West Indies pounced on the opportunity to do so again in grey Manchester, ignoring the history that says no side has won a Test on this ground after winning the toss and choosing to field.They instantly looked flat. Gabriel, man of the match with nine wickets in the first Test, sent his second delivery down the leg side for five wides and later spent time off the field with what looked like a groin problem.Chase was only bowling in the first hour because the pacemen were so poor, but struck with his second and third deliveries, and remained tidy throughout the day.The sprightly Joseph led an improvement of the fast bowlers, getting his reward when Root chased an outswinger he could barely reach.Kemar Roach and Holder managed one threatening spell apiece, in the afternoon and evening respectively, but Holder was also forced from the field.When he returned, he missed the chance off Sibley, was in the firing line when another Gabriel wide went straight to second slip, and could not inspire his team into finding a way to past England’s increasingly comfortable fourth-wicket pair.last_img

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