Stokes, Buttler lead England's fightback



Windies seamers rattled England post lunch. © AFP

On what was an absorbing day of Test cricket, Ben Stokes and Jos Buttler ensured that the England batting order didn’t collapse in the Caribbean yet again as the duo stitched an unbeaten 124 for the fifth wicket before play was halted on the opening day in St. Lucia. England were in a familiar position once again after losing three key wickets in the afternoon session but Stokes and Buttler mixed caution with aggression to bail their side out of trouble as the tourists posted 231/4 on the board at stumps.

Keaton Jennings’ recall didn’t help matters for England as they failed to address their top order woes. Jennings was tentative and watchful right from the outset and received two reprieves before finally falling to a loose drive outside off. Keemo Paul and Shannon Gabriel then bowled some absolute beauties towards the end of the session with the batsmen keen on getting through to the break without further damage.

England then had the rub of the green once again in the final over before lunch when Gabriel bowled one at awkward length and line on leg to Joe Denly, which the batsman tried to fend without success. Upon collecting the ball, the wicketkeeper was convinced there was a glove and urged the skipper to review the decision. Replays showed that the batsman had indeed gloved it, but quite remarkably, Denly’s glove was not in contact with the handle just in time when the ball kissed it, thus managing to survive.

But things changed completely post the lunch break as the Windies pacers continued to pose questions. After fetching a few extra runs on the way that helped them improve the run rate, the procession began. First, it was Burns who failed to make connection with a full delivery to get trapped lbw. They made it a double strike when Gabriel trapped Denly lbw and this time, the batsman took the review with him. And just when it appeared as if Joe Root would find his feet, he played a loose stroke outside off to a delivery that was short and wide.

Stokes then survived a lbw call very early in the final session before launching himself to catch the Windies off guard. After playing an excellent drive past the bowler, the left-hander grew in confidence punishing Alzarri Joseph in particular. The ones that were bowled too wide or short were duly punished by Stokes and with time, Buttler too joined the party. At one stage, it appeared as if England were fetching at least boundary every over. Windies had a moment of misfortune immediately after Stokes got to his fifty as the batsman miscued a pull to hit one back at Joseph that he pouched in excellent fashion only for the replays to confirm that he had overstepped. By the time the umpires realised it, Stokes was already back in the England camp and had to be rushed back onto the field immediately as per the laws.

The runs continued to flow even towards the end of the session as both batsmen registered England’s first century stand of the series. After 83 overs, the umpires had enough as a few overs were lost as a result of the rain break.

Brief scores: England 231/4 (Jos Buttler 67*. Ben Stokes 20*; Keemo Paul – 2-42) vs Windies.

© Cricbuzz


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