Super Stokes shines for England against West Indies in Barbados


Ben Stokes starred with the bat on day two before some late resistance from West Indies threatened to hold up England’s pursuit of victory in Barbados.

The tourists pushed on from where they had left off on Wednesday with captain Joe Root steadily building his score while Ben Stokes looked close to his belligerent best as he brought up his 27th career half-century from 73 balls while the 100-run partnership came up in 138 deliveries as England scored nearly five runs an over in the morning session.

Stokes was very much batting in ‘one-day’ mode, looking to be proactive and score off virtually every delivery as he raced towards a century, passing 5000 Test runs in the process as he crashed the West Indian bowlers around the park with ease, including taking 20 off one Alzarri Joseph over shortly before the interval.

With the scoring pressure taken care of by Stokes, the England skipper coasted through to 150*, the 12th time in his career that he has achieved such a feat in the colours of his nation. The pair guided England through to the lunch break with the score 369-3, having added 125 runs across the morning.

Kemar Roach finally forced a breakthrough shortly after the resumption of play, nipping the ball back into Root and wrapping him on the knee roll. Although the appeal was initially turned down, Kraigg Brathwaite sent it upstairs and DRS showed the ball was hitting leg-stump to remove Root for a fantastic 153.

Stokes remained and he was joined by first Test centurion Jonny Bairstow as England looked to further turn the screw and put themselves in a position to bowl at the hosts later in the day.

With Bairstow still settling at the crease, Stokes continued to play the role of the aggressor, registering his 11th test century off only 114 deliveries, the third-fastest of his career to date.

In doing so, the pair guided England past the 400-run mark for the first time since the third Test against India last August, only the second time in the past 12 months that they had passed that total.

With Joseph going at nearly five runs per over, England were able to milk runs from Roach as well as Jayden Seales and Jason Holder, while Stokes looked to launch Veerasammy Permaul at every available opportunity, refusing to let the slow left-armer settle into any sort of rhythm, reminiscent of how the Australians had dealt with Jack Leach on the recent Ashes tour.

Bairstow perished shortly after England passed 400, taking on a short-ball from Joseph but failing to get anywhere near a solid connection on the ball, top-edging it high into the Caribbean sky and offering up a simple catch for Nkrumah Bonner on the midwicket boundary.

Stokes continued to look positive, launching Brathwaite for two monstrous sixes before attempting the feat for a third consecutive delivery but only succeeding in picking out Shamarh Brooks at long-off for 120 from 128 deliveries.

Ben Foakes and Chris Woakes continued to guide England along steadily, the scoring rate dropping back down to around three per over for the partnership as they marshalled England towards 500 with the tea interval approaching.

With one eye potentially on a declaration, Woakes hammered Permaul for another maximum over midwicket, the eighth of the innings to add to six from Stokes and one from Dan Lawrence. The pair took their partnership past fifty in the penultimate over before tea with England reaching the break at 482-6.

With the partnership on 75, and England one run shy of 500, Foakes came charging down the track with the intent of hitting maximum number nine but only succeeded in giving the simplest of stumping opportunities to fellow wicket-keeper Joshua da Silva.

With the intent clearly being quick runs for the English, Woakes would drag a boundary away behind square to take England past 500 before sending the next ball into the sky and being brilliantly held by Seales on the run to give Roach his second wicket of the match after bowling his heart out for his side.

Jack Leach followed shortly thereafter in almost identical fashion to Foakes before Root decided to call his men in with the scoreboard reading 507-9.

Debutant Matt Fisher took the new ball with Woakes and from his second delivery, he drew John Campbell into a false stroke, inducing a fine edge which carried through to Foakes and sent the English slip cordon into delirium at the Yorkshireman’s first international wicket.

Brooks joined Brathwaite at the crease and together they set about reducing the deficit, working singles where possible and punishing the occasional loose delivery from both the English bowlers before Root turned to Leach after only seven overs, having seen the spin Permaul was accumulating earlier in the day.

Fisher thought that he might have had a second wicket after he replaced Woakes, drawing an edge from Brooks this time however the third umpire adjudged that the ball had bounced just prior to settling into the hands of Zak Crawley at second slip which was followed with a sumptuous drive through the covers for four.

With little happening, Root would once again hand the ball to his star all-rounder in Stokes, while Lancastrian pace bowler Saqib Mahmood was also brought into the attack, and they immediately set about attempting to break the partnership that was starting to develop.

Stokes nearly got Brooks strangling one down the legside through to Foakes and Leach returned to have Brathwaite given lbw before the decision was overturned on review as the pair took their partnership into the forties.

A thumping cut shot from Brathwaite took the stand beyond 50 as the pair battled through to the close of play with the score reading 71-1.

England will be looking for early wickets on Friday to force a result on a pitch that is already showing signs of turn and uneven bounce.

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