MANCHESTER: England took charge at Old Trafford on Friday after Ben Stokes scored an impressive 176 against West Indies, declaring their first-innings on 469-9.
Meanwhile opener Dom Sibley made a painstaking 120 and put on 260 with star all-rounder Stokes after England had been in trouble at 81-3 on Thursday following the loss of returning captain Joe Root.
West Indies, faced with a tricky hour to bat until stumps on the second day, lost John Campbell to the recalled Sam Curran and were 32-1 at the close.
England had been forced into a late change to their pace attack after fast bowler Jofra Archer was dramatically omitted Thursday for breaching the bio-secure bubble by making an unauthorised trip home to Brighton following the West Indies´ four-wicket win in last week´s first Test at Southampton.
But left-arm paceman Curran, who might not have played if Archer had been retained, made the breakthrough when an inswinger had Campbell lbw on review and he would have also had nightwatchman Alzarri Joseph leg before if England had challenged a not out decision.
England came into this match already planning to revamp their pace attack, with Stuart Broad — angry at being rested last week — back in action.
James Anderson, was rested in turn, even though this match was taking place at the Lancashire home ground of England’s all-time leading wicket-taker, with Chris Woakes recalled after Mark Wood was also given a breather.
But the day belonged to Sibley and Stokes, whose partnership was the second-highest for the fourth-wicket by England against the West Indies, behind the celebrated stand of 411 shared by Peter May and Colin Cowdrey at Edgbaston back in 1957.
Sibley’s hundred was one of the slowest in Tests by an England batsman, the opener batting for 471 minutes — nearly eight hours — to complete a 312-ball century featuring a mere fours.
But the 24-year-old Warwickshire right-hander’s second hundred in his eight Tests, following 133 not out against South Africa at Cape Town in January, was a valuable innings.
And he made normally reliable West Indies captain Jason Holder pay for dropping him in the slips on 68.
‘Make it count’
Run-scoring was difficult against a swinging ball and on a sluggish outfield, with even the usually fluent Stokes taking nearly six hours and 285 balls to complete his 10th Test century.
“West Indies made us work really hard for the runs,” Stokes told reporters. “It swung and nipped throughout.
“If you get in, you have to make it count. We keep saying we base our Tests on big first innings runs and we’ve done that this week.”
Stokes led from the front with the bat, even though he had handed back the captaincy to Root, who missed last week’s match to attend the birth of his second child.
After getting himself in, left-handed batsman Stokes showed his class by upping the tempo with a third fifty off just 46 balls and overtaking Sibley after given his team-mate a ‘head start’ of 31.2 overs.
Stokes’ assault on the new ball included a remarkable check-drive six over midwicket off Joseph.
Sibley, 86 not out overnight, ground his way to a hundred before he holed out against off-spinner Roston Chase, who took 5-172 from 44 overs.
But Stokes made sure England’s innings did not get bogged down.
“It was great,” said Sibley of batting with Stokes. “He turned it on after he got to a hundred and started being very expansive and took the pressure off me a little bit.”
Kemar Roach checked England´s progress when he struck for the first time this series with two wickets in two balls.
In his 71st over of the campaign the persevering paceman had Stokes, attempting an ambitious reverse sweep, caught behind to end a 356-ball innings featuring 17 fours and two sixes before Woakes was caught in the gully.