West Indies are struggling at 123 for 9, Shannon Gabriel is the last man on strike and about to face a pumped up Ben Stokes. Everyone is on their feet as Stokes puts in the hard yards, the lanky all-rounder gets the red leather to swing into the right-hander and the shatters the stumps with a peach of a delivery. He has scalped his sixth wicket of the innings for just 22 runs, which is also his best run in a Test innings so far. West Indies have been derailed for 123 as Stokes scripts history and adds another feather to his star-studded cap.
After a demoralising defeat at Headingley, the onus of making a comeback was in England. They needed an emphatic show with the ball in the first innings and Stokes provided one. England are just a few weeks away from locking horns with Australia in the Ashes and their form in red ball cricket has not been the best, to say the least. Stokes, on the other hand, had just 10 wickets to his name from last six Tests at home.
West Indies’ top three were done by James Anderson and Toby Roland-Jones. Anderson was on the brink of picking 500 Test wickets and it looked like this was the day, when he will inscribe his name in the history of Test cricket, but Stokes steamed in and wreaked havoc to steal the show at Lord’s.
Wickets have not been easy to come for Stokes in the recent times, but he made the ball talk by exploiting the conditions at Lord’s. By far, Stokes is not the best red ball bowler in the English dugout, but he often produces wicket taking deliveries, which makes him a force to be reckoned. He plays his part well and grabs the opportunity when there is one.
At Lord’s, he got the ball to swing late and created immense trouble for the West Indies batsmen. Stokes came to bowl in the 30th over of the West Indies innings and conceded 7 runs in his first over. But quickly made a comeback by delivering a maiden over next. And moments later, he caught and bowled Kieran Powell.
From the other end, Roland-Jones got the better of Jermaine Blackwood to leave West Indies reeling at 87 for 5. Not many thought that the remaining five would be Stokes’ scalps and he did extremely well to achieve it.
Roston Chase was trying to weather the storm on 18 when Stokes produced an absolute ripper to end his run. The ball was pitched around off-stump and angled in but moved away from the batsman after pitching to hit the off-stump. It was the kind of delivery, which would have outdone any batsman at the crease and there was hardly anything Chase could have done about it.
A delivery later, Stokes induced an outside edge off Shane Dowrich’s willow and picked his third wicket of the innings. Just before Tea, Stokes almost got the better of Jason Holder had Joe Root not dropped him in the slip cordon. Stokes was on fire when West Indies went to Tea at 119 or 7. He continued to bowl after the break and was never removed from the attack.
Holder couldn’t make any damage after getting a reprieve just before Tea as Stokes returned with another beauty. There was a humongous swing on this one as it moved in very late and uprooted the stumps. It looked like Holder was trying to leave the ball initially as it appeared to be an out-swinger, but by the time he realised it was coming in, he was too late to get his bat in line.
By now, Stokes had bowled 14 overs on a trot but never looked short of energy or intensity. This was the kind of a day, where Stokes wouldn’t have done anything wrong. In the very next over, Stokes claimed his fifth wicket in the form of Kemar Roach with an out-swinger that had some extra bounce. On the very next delivery, Gabriel fell prey to Stokes’ persistence.
This is a deciding Test and Stokes did a fantastic job in putting his side in the front. His success will only boost the side’s bowling attack ahead of the Ashes. He has once again proved his worth as an all-rounder and the kind of impact he can have with the ball. He has always been England’s X-factor and this outing was just another testament to it. He now has his name inscribed on the honours board at Lord’s for his batting as well as bowling.
Stokes was quoted in a report from The Guardian saying, “I felt I was letting the team down a bit, so to bowl like I did today was a monkey off my back. This is a place where you’re proud if you get your name on the honours board. No one can take it away from you and I’ll always to say I’m there through batting and bowling.”
The Test is now well placed with West Indies fighting back after Stokes’ heroics with the ball. At stumps, England were 46 for 4 with Stokes and Dawid Malan unbeaten at the crease. Will Stokes be the saviour once again? Well, that is for the time to tell, but by looking at the way things have fared for him, one can expect Stokes to weave magic with the bat as well.