LONDON – Ben Stokes claimed career-best bowling figures of 6-22 as 14 wickets fell at Lord’s on day one of the third and final Test between England and West Indies, with both teams still vying to be series winners.
Only once before in 55 years had 13 wickets or more been taken at Lord’s on the opening day of a Test.
All-rounder Stokes took six of them, for 22 runs, in a 15-over straight spell either side of tea, to help dismiss West Indies for 123, their lowest total of the tour.
The tourists then reduced England to 24-4 before Stokes and Dawid Malan consolidated, making steady progress under bad light, which stopped play 10 minutes early, to take the hosts to 46-4 and leave the match well poised.
Jason Holder would have been forgiven for looking back ruefully at his decision to bat first having won the toss after his team’s first innings total. With clear skies at the toss, it appeared a sound decision, until James Anderson moved within one dismissal of 500 Test wickets as he dealt West Indies a double blow in the morning session in friendly seaming conditions.
Dark clouds moved overhead soon after the players took to the field and Anderson almost opened his account in the third over of the day. Alastair Cook, however, made it three consecutive drops in the slips for the former England captain, when he spilt Kraigg Brathwaite on three.
But the leading England Test wicket-taker didn’t have to wait too long before getting revenge, as he had Brathwaite caught behind by Jonny Bairstow for the addition of seven runs.
Cramping the opener for space, Anderson found a little movement off the pitch and kissed the edge of Brathwaite’s bat for Bairstow to take comfortably.
The Lancastrian then added a second, after a brief downpour delayed proceedings by 30 minutes, removing Kyle Hope for an 11-ball duck. With feet planted, Hope wafted at one that left him off the pitch and clipped it to the diving Bairstow, to leave England on top at the lunch interval.
England then took five wickets in the second session, with Ben Stokes claiming three wickets – two coming in a single over – and Toby Roland-Jones claiming the other two, as batting continued to prove difficult.
England’s bowlers were made to wait for their first scalp of the afternoon by a disciplined 56-run partnership between Shai Hope (29) and Kieran Powell (39). Hope looked in particularly great touch striking seven boundaries in his knock.
But when Roland-Jones had him caught by Cook in the slips, to end his bad catching run, it started a mini collapse, which saw five West Indies wickets fall for 23 runs.
Four balls after removing Hope, Powell followed his teammate to the pavilion, driving the ball back aerially at Stokes to take a smart catch in his follow-through.
With dark clouds still hanging over Lord’s, both bowlers found extensive swing, which Roland-Jones utilised to great effect to bowl the dangerous Jermaine Blackwood (1), who tried to offer an expansive drive.
Three back-to-back maiden overs followed before Stokes, fired up by a couple of close wicket-taking deliveries, dismissed Roston Chase (18) and Shane Dowrich (1) in the space of three balls.
Captain Holder (9) joined them in the pavilion quickly after the tea break, bowled by a huge Stokes inswinger, who dismissed Kemar Roach (0) and Shannon Gabriel (0) off consecutive balls to get his name on the Lord’s honours board with the ball for the first time.
Before today, Stokes had taken just ten wickets in the six Tests so far this summer at an average of 44 and had not looked in any sort of rhythm with the ball in hand. Stokes’ batting has been in fine fettle this summer – he has scored two hundreds and three fifties – but he has been used sparingly by captain Joe Root with the ball. In the previous match at Headingley, Stokes had bowled just five overs in Windies’ second innings.
He conceded he had been frustrated with his bowling performances this summer and had been working on a couple of technical faults which had crept into his game. “The hard work contributes towards success which is why I gave a wave up to Gibbo [Ottis Gibson],” Stokes said.
“He’s helped me the last six or seven weeks putting loads of hours in with technical stuff, bowling in the mornings and at training. If it wasn’t for him, I’m not sure I would have had a day like I’ve had today.
England’s reply got off to the worst start possible when Mark Stoneman departed with just one run on the board, clipping Roach to wicket-keeper Dowrich. Cook went the same way for 10, followed by the beleaguered Tom Westley (8) being trapped lbw by Holder.
Holder, off his very next delivery, took the crucial wicket of Joe Root (1), to leave England in a tricky position at stumps.