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Ben Stokes bowled brilliantly to create pressure from one and fetch crucial wickets

The first Test at Bridgetown Barbados started off with a surprise choice by the English think-tank to omit Stuart Broad and consider playing two spinners at Barbados! Playing two spinners at Barbados is normal these days. Barbados deck is not as fearsome as the 80s and 90s, but it remains on the slow-and-low side. Obviously, you would select a team depending on the conditions, but omitting someone like Broad, who has still plenty to offer, was surely a tough call and it only happens when there are so much to choose for. England, at present, have so much talent to challenge the spot of the very best.

The discussion on Broad’s omission gained momentum, but in the meantime, Broad’s bowling partner has hogged the limelight at the fag end of Day 1 and in the morning session of Day 2. As soon as he fetched his second wicket on Day 1, Jimmy and his new-ball partner, Broad claimed a very significant landmark – the pace-bowling pair has reached 1000 wickets in Tests. And on Day 2, when he dismissed Alzarri Joseph, Jimmy levelled with Ian Botham on 27 five-wicket hauls for England – a remarkable feat.

Jimmy struggled in the morning and post-lunch session of Day 1 with his line and movement, but as the day progressed, he could exploit the persistence of someone named Ben Stokes, whose relentless effort challenged the defiant resistance put up by West Indies top-order batters.

The start for West Indies was solid, but resolute. Kraigg Brathwaite was extremely selective while playing strokes. He would leave anything outside the offstump and play the sheet-anchor role to the fluency of debutante John Campbell, who showed positive intent by flexing his muscles.

Also read: Is Stuart Broad’s time coming to an end?

Anderson’s new-ball partner, Sam Curran leaked runs – almost 5 an over and gradually, West Indies were taking the upper hand over the visitors. Moeen Ali dismissed Campbell, but England found it tough to challenge the composure of Shai Hope and ultra-defensive approach of Brathwaite.

Their serene progress continued even after lunch and at 126 for 1, it seemed, West Indies would end the first day in a satisfactory manner. But Stokes would not give up so easily.

In the post-lunch session, England started off with an Anderson-Rashid combination, but sadly, Hope was dominating Jimmy quite efficiently and it required a bowler to create pressure from one end and none could be better than Stokes to do such.

Stokes generated pace on a non-responsive track and maintained an attacking line to test the patience of West Indian batsmen. His use of the bowling crease had been remarkable as he at times he came wide of the crease to angled one in and then, made the ball leave away from the batsmen. With each delivery, he was giving the impression of a breakthrough.

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Brathwaite, who was not offering any shots outside off, was forced to edge one towards the slip cordon at a delivery, which pitched a tad fuller than previous ones. He stayed back thinking it would leave, but the late movement ultimately ended his resistance. A change in length gave England the much needed breakthrough and Stokes’ confidence grew more as he trapped Darren Bravo an over later – it was an attempted Yorker, which moved late and Bravo had no time to counter it.

But before that, Stokes melted Bravo’s confidence with pace and short balls, followed by a wider one, which he chased without any effective results. Then he dropped pace and dished out a yorker, which left Bravo baffled.

126 for 1 became 128 for 3 and England were back on track immediately.

Nevertheless, it was smart bowling from Stokes, who bowled almost 16 overs from one-end without any breaks.

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Throughout the Day 1, Stokes persisted with his aggression and attacking line-and-length. It always piled up the pressure from one end and created an ideal platform for Anderson to utilise. Anderson shone in the later part of the day and plucked four wickets. The limelight was on Jimmy.

On Day 2, Stokes continued where he left from. Neither the length nor the line changed and which did not let West Indies surpass more than 300 runs. The dangerous Shimron Hetmyer was dismissed and Stokes returned to the dressing room with 4 wickets, while Jimmy bagged 5.

Stokes, as usual, displayed great character, when his team needed the most.

Surprisingly, Moeen Ali and Adil Rashid failed to make an impact on a deck, which offered assistance for the spinners. They shared just one wicket in between them.

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