The West Indies showed determination and grit to deny England victory in a tense final session of the second Test at Bridgetown Barbados.

On Day 1, Joe Root was again right on the money as the skipper notched up yet another hundred. An anomalous Ashes campaign stands squarely in the way of Root’s otherwise normal service, but if the pressure of hoisting this Test team onto his shoulders had caused those knees to buckle in Australia, then Root has reaffirmed his desire to lead England’s rebuild in no uncertain terms.

In six hours of ever-mounting authority, Root reaped what he himself had sown – in partnership with, first, the doughty Alex Lees, then the more free-spirited Dan Lawrence – as a morning session of 47 grimly-conceded runs gave way to returns of 89 in the afternoon and 108 in the evening, during which Lawrence’s 91 from 150 balls, the highest score of his young career, reinforced the can-do attitude that he had displayed in his declaration slog in Antigua last week.

Alas for Lawrence, his innings would end in agonising anti-climax, from what would have been the penultimate ball of the day. He had reined himself in for much of the final hour, surviving in the process a spill at slip off the persevering Jayden Seales on 72. But then, with his blood pumping after racing into the 90s with back-to-back boundaries, Jason Holder lured him on the drive once more, and Lawrence stalked off cursing himself after picking out extra cover. Like Zak Crawley in the first Test, he may reflect that opportunities for Test centuries don’t come much better than this, least of all when you are privileged enough to share in a 164-run partnership with an acknowledged modern master of the game.

For there aren’t many measures left by which to assess the zone that Root has entered into in the past 14 months. By the time he left the field with 119 from 246 balls to his name, Root had racked up 2018 runs since the start of 2021. England play more Tests than most opponents of course – and that can be a curse as much as a blessing when it comes to managing burn-out – but of his contemporaries, only Rishabh Pant (1077) and Dimuth Karunaratne (1068) have even crossed even the 1000-mark.

Just as Root had begun his 2021 annus mirablis with scores of 228, 186 and 218 against Sri Lanka and India, and the sense that nothing and no one could dislodge him, so he finished this first day as if in a force-field. West Indies delayed their new ball until the 85th over as Seales, in particular, began to locate some reverse-swing, but Root’s footwork was imperturbable as he sashayed himself into line and set his stall for the second day.

On Day 2, Ben Stokes made a welcome return to the ranks of Test centurion with a belligerent display against the West Indies as England set a commanding first-innings total.

It had been well over 18 months and 23 Test innings without a ton for Stokes and much has happened in that time – from losing his beloved father, Ged, to a four-and-a-half-month absence from the game during which he had two operations to repair a serious finger injury and took time out to manage his mental health. But once he got going on the second morning in Barbados, it was something to behold.

He struck four sixes and 11 fours as he reached 89 off just 92 balls by lunch, having started the day on nought after Dan Lawrence fell on the last ball of the opening day.

A quieter period ensued after the interval as Kemar Roach and Jason Holder put the lid on England’s scoring for a time, but Stokes went out swinging once more, for 120, after bringing up his 11th Test hundred with a scampered single and celebrating with his crooked-fingered salute to the heavens in memory of his dad, who died in December 2020. Stokes’ last Test century had come against West Indies at Old Trafford in July of that year.

Meanwhile, his captain, Joe Root, was at the other end of the pitch for the most part, during a 129-run partnership for the fourth wicket, having brought up his second consecutive Test century the evening before, his eighth in 19 Tests since the start of 2021.

Root ended up with 153 on this occasion, before leaving Stokes to carry on and then seeing a 75-run seventh-wicket stand between Chris Woakes and Ben Foakes, allowing him to on 507 for 9 shortly after tea.

On Day 3, After a disciplined display which frustrated England’s bowlers no end and ultimately lasted the entire third day, Kraigg Brathwaite posted a stubborn 10th Test ton, but he knew that plenty of work lay ahead in West Indies’ pursuit of England’s hefty first-innings total.

Jermaine Blackwood, on the other hand, started celebrating his century a third of the way down the pitch while still watching the ball trickling beyond the slips cordon for a single, running with his arms outstretched before turning his face skyward and pumping his fist as a relieved grin appeared briefly then gave way to a determined stare, the task ahead not forgotten.

The pair put on 183 runs together to grind down an England attack deflated by the denial of Saqib Mahmood’s maiden Test wicket – Blackwood on 65 at the time – because of a front-foot no-ball, and with tensions boiling over in a verbal altercation between Ben Stokes and Blackwood.

Having resumed on 71 for 1, West Indies lost two wickets before lunch, before Brathwaite and Blackwood mounted their resistance.

On Day 4, Brathwaite stuck around for a marathon 160 compiled over more than 11-and-a-half hours, an innings which dragged West Indies to 411 all out in response to England’s first-innings 507 for 9 declared. A deficit of 96 runs at least offered some potential for an intriguing final day.

Jack leach epitomised England’s toil in the field with three wickets for 118 runs in 69.5 overs, by some distance more than twice as many overs as either Ben Stokes or Saqib Mahmood, who claimed two wickets each.

By the time bad light ended play two overs before the scheduled close on day four, England had extended their advantage to 136 runs at 40 without loss in their second innings with Zak Crawley unbeaten on 21 and Alex Lees not out 18.

On Day 5 Brathwaite thwarted England’s bid for victory with another resolute batting display as the second Test ended in a draw in Barbados.

Brathwaite added an unbeaten 56 to his marathon first-innings 160 as West Indies ended up 136 for 5 in their second innings on a final day which featured greater tension than expected. England fancied their chances before Brathwaite reprised his immovable object routine on his home ground and was well supported by Joshua Da Silva’s 30 not out after England had set West Indies 282 to win in a minimum 65 overs following a lunch-time declaration.

Three wickets in the middle session gave the visitors hope as they sought what had seemed an unlikely result after a couple of attritional days in which Brathwaite batted for nearly 12 hours, putting on 183 runs off 411 balls with Jermaine Blackwood, and where runs and wickets were at a premium. In all, Brathwaite scored 216 runs for the match, facing 673 balls, more than any other West Indies batter in Tests, and spent almost 16 hours at the crease.

After Saqib Mahmood and Jack Leach combined to reduce West Indies to 39 for 3 inside the first 13 overs of their second innings, Brathwaite and Blackwood were reunited once more and by tea on the final day, West Indies were 65 for 3, the pair having chewed up 108 balls for an unbroken stand of 26 and leaving England 35 scheduled overs in which to take seven wickets.

Two more to Leach, who bowled well all match, stoked England’s ambitions, but with Brathwaite having put a result out of the question, he and Joe Root shook hands with about 15 minutes left in the day and the three-match series locked at 0-0.

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Note: Input from ESPNcricinfo

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