Jermaine Blackwood perhaps played the innings of his life as his innings of 95 and the highest of the match that sneaked the West Indies to a relatively close win against England in the first Test in Southampton. Jermaine Blackwood atoned for his mistake in the first innings where he threw away his bright start for 12. And the Jamaican stepped up, withstood, and held his nerves to steer the tourists from a precarious position.
After Jofra Archer and Mark Wood dragged England to a lead of 170 late on the fourth evening, Alzarri Joseph opened on the fifth day. Before Mark Wood perished for 2 to Shannon Gabriel in the sixth over of the day, Archer played some shots of authority to get some boundaries. The 112 over saw Gabriel took his fifth and ninth of the match after a bouncer resulted in a nick to Shane Dowrich. Despite an obvious tickle, the Barbadian reviewed in vain that set West Indies their finish line.
West Indies had the responsibility to upheld their record of never losing a game while chasing down 200 or less. Also, Southampton never witnessed a target of 200 being gunned down before. However, the English bowlers came out licking their lips and Jofra Archer and Mark Wood looked all keen to put up telling performances. The former began and the signs of picking up express pace were looking positive for the first time.
Kraigg Brathwaite, who mustered 65 in the first innings, was the first to go in the fifth over when he inside-edged a length ball to the stumps for 4. While James Anderson kept bowling nagging line and lengths, Archer returned two overs later and fired a full delivery that rapped on the pads of Shamrah Brooks for a duck. The 10th over bowled by Anderson, frequently attacking the stumps, played a massive part as Mark Wood destroyed the timbers of Shai Hope for 9 in the next.
Roston Chase and Jermaine Blackwood bring back West Indies in the match:
In pursuit of 200, the West Indies found themselves sinking already. Ben Stokes and co. already smelt blood when Blackwood made his way to the crease. However, the pair deployed a watertight technique against the combination of pace, seam, swing, and spin while England had themselves to blame too for ruining three opportunities. The first of them came in the 26th over when Jos Buttler missed a sitter off a tickle that came of Blackwood’s bat down the leg side.
Buttler’s face was already crestfallen and the hosts were beginning to fade away. Zak Crawley fumbled a simple run-out chance while Rory Burns at gully could not even lay a hand off an edge from Blackwood; however, Stokes had overstepped. Ten overs later, Archer brought his fearsome short ball into play that Chase found unplayable, resulting into spooning into Buttler’s gloves for 37. Archer also ended the stand of 73 at the half-way mark of their run-chase.
Jemaine Blackwood sees the West Indies through without further roadblocks:
The 25-year old kept firing bouncers on the set batsman Blackwood, but the batsman stood up to it and got through the challenging times. Hope arose for England when a juicy dipping delivery struck Shane Dowrich outside the line. As England challenged the decision, the impact was found to be umpire’s call. Two overs later, Jermaine Blackwood reached his fifty by merely defending an Anderson delivery with soft hands that travelled through the slip cordon for a boundary.
Blackwood played more freely now and before tea Shane Dowrich was also looking comfortable. Blackwood looked impenetrable while after five overs, England needed less than 50 runs with six wickets still in hand. Perhaps amongst the most eventful overs of the match, one came from the England captain himself when out of nowhere Dowrich edged one at first slip to Dom Sibley. But Stokes was already dejected as replays indicated he had overstepped. But on the very next delivery, Dowrich flicked one to Buttler as Stokes made amends precisely how Gabriel did against Sibley.
For the vigil Blackwood endured, he deserved a hundred; however, on 95, it was a carbon-copy dismissal as he holed to mid-off again and caught by Anderson once more to give Stokes as his second wicket. Meanwhile, opener John Campbell, who retired hurt earlier in the innings due to an Archer yorker was back for a final haul. It only fitted that Jason Holder stayed till the end alongside Campbell to block a potential fightback from England and ensured no brain-fade occurred to complete a four-wicket triumph and go to Manchester with a series lead. Ben Stokes could not have asked for a more forgettable outing in his first Test as the captain.