MANCHESTER, England – Shamarh Brooks and Jermaine Blackwood carved out polished half-centuries but West Indies’ fragile top order was again cruelly exposed, as England levelled the three-Test series with a 113-run victory on the final day at Old Trafford on Monday.
Set an improbable 312 to win the second Test after the hosts declared their second innings on 129 for three an hour into the morning, West Indies collapsed in a heap at 25 for three at lunch thanks to veteran seamer Stuart Broad (3-42) who produced a lethal burst with the new ball.
Brooks then top-scored with 62 while Blackwood stroked 55, the pair posting an invaluable 100 for the fifth wicket to revive the innings and the Caribbean side’s hopes of forcing a stalemate in the pivotal contest.
But once Blackwood perished in the final over before tea, West Indies wobbled again, losing their last six wickets for 61 runs to be all out for 198, with 14.5 overs and three-quarters of an hour left to survive in England’s northwest.
Fast bowling all-rounders Ben Stokes (2-30) and Chris Woakes (2-34), along with off-spinner Dom Bess (2-59), all finished with two wickets each, firing England to a crucial victory and keeping alive their hopes of recapturing the Wisden Trophy, ahead of the deciding Test beginning here Friday.
Man-of-the-Match Stokes had earlier set the tone for England’s dominance after they resumed on 37 for two, as he blasted an unbeaten 78 from 57 deliveries, to stun West Indies in the morning session.
Dropped on 29 in the second over of the day by John Campbell at deep extra cover off speedster Shannon Gabriel, the left-hander shredded the Windies attack with four fours and three sixes as England frenetically increased their lead.
Once the declaration came on the stroke of the first hour, it left West Indies with a minimum of 85 overs to survive in order to save the game and retain the Wisden but things quickly went awry.
Campbell completed a poor match when he fell to the fifth ball of the innings for four, nicking a loose drive behind off Broad and England having to resort to DRS to have the initial not out decision overturned.
His senior opening partner Kraigg Brathwaite followed about 20 minutes before lunch when he was pinned on his crease by Woakes for 12 in a clear lbw decision and five balls later in the next over, Shai Hope was comprehensively bowled by Broad for seven by one that came back.
Needing to start well after lunch, West Indies suffered even more disappointment in the fourth over when Roston Chase shouldered arms to Broad, was struck on the back leg, and sent on his way lbw for six.
Brooks and Blackwood then joined forces to stabilise the Windies innings, in a partnership which blunted England’s attack, albeit temporarily.
Already with a half-century in the first innings, Brooks exuded class and confidence in a knock consuming 136 balls in just under 3-½ hours, and which included four fours and two sixes – both elegant straight hits off Bess.
Blackwood, meanwhile, punched seven fours – including three in one over from left-arm seamer Sam Curran – in an innings requiring 88 balls and a shade under two hours.
He appeared set to reach tea safely when he fended off a short delivery from Stokes and was taken low down by wicketkeeper Jos Buttler running around to the leg side, off the fourth ball before the break.
That dismissal put England firmly in command and they pressed home their advantage after the interval taken at 137 for five, Woakes trapping Shane Dowrich on his crease in the first full over after the resumption to ensure the diminutive right-hander completed a “pair” in the game.
Unbeaten on 52 at tea after authoritatively reaching his third Test half-century with the second of his two sixes in the penultimate over before the break, Brooks desperately tried to repair the innings in a 23-run stand with captain Jason Holder who made 35.
However, his resistance finally ended when he lazily played back to Curran and was plumb lbw.
Holder belted five fours and a six in a 62-ball knock, attempting to inspire a last ditch rescue effort but once he was bowled through the gate by Bess, all hopes of salvaging a stalemate perished with him.