Blackwood steers West Indies to victory in first Test against England in three-match series


Jermaine Blackwood

SOUTHAMPTON, England  –  Jermaine Blackwood perished agonisingly short of a deserved hundred but West Indies took a giant leap towards their first series win on English soil in 32 years when they held their nerve to stun the hosts by four wickets in the opening Test here on Sunday.

Asked to chase a tricky 200 in two-and-a-half sessions, West Indies reached their target approaching the final hour when opener John Campbell, who returned to bat after retiring hurt on one in the fourth over, turned seamer Ben Stokes to square leg for a single.

The right-handed Blackwood was at the forefront of the run chase, top-scoring with a superb 95 to hold together an innings which lay in ruins at 27 for three in the first session after Barbados-born speedster Jofra Archer (3-45) produced a lethal two-wicket burst to help demolish the top order.

Curbing his ultra-attacking instinct which cost him his wicket cheaply in the first innings, Blackwood consumed 154 balls in a shade over 3-¾ hours and struck 12 fours – mostly authoritative off-side strokes.

Enjoying his first start in a Test in nearly three years, he put on 73 for the fourth wicket with Roston Chase who made 37 before adding a further 68 for the fifth wicket with wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich who made a dogged 20.

When Chase fell in the second session and Dowrich in the last, Blackwood partnered with skipper Jason Holder (14 not out) in another precious stand to put West Indies on the brink of victory.

But with only 11 runs needed for victory, Blackwood drilled Stokes to Jimmy Anderson at mid off to miss out on a second Test hundred.

For West Indies, the Test win was only their second on English soil in two decades but their fifth win over England in their last 10 Tests inside the last five years.

Man-of-the-Match fast bowler Shannon Gabriel had earlier snatched the last two wickets to fall to finish with a five-wicket haul as England, resuming from 284 for eight overnight, were dismissed for 313 in their second innings within the first 40 minutes of the morning.

Archer, unbeaten on five at the start, top-scored with 23 to lead England’s brief resistance but Gabriel proved irrepressible with five for 75 to finish with match figures of nine for 137.

The barrel-chested Trinidadian struck in the morning’s sixth over when Mark Wood threw his bat at a good length ball and nicked a catch behind to Dowrich, and followed up in his next over when he had Archer also caught behind, gloving a pull at a short one.

Left with just over an hour to negotiate before lunch, West Indies quickly found themselves tottering as a fired-up Archer unleashed a devastating opening salvo with the new ball.

After Campbell hobbled off, opening partner Kraigg Brathwaite followed in Archer’s next over, bowled off the inside edge for four defending loosely, with seven runs on the board.

And Archer struck again in his next over, hitting Shamarh Brooks plumb in front with a full length delivery before he had scored, to leave West Indies reeling on seven for two.

Shai Hope arrived to twice caress veteran seamer Jimmy Anderson to the cover boundary in the same over but once he was beaten for pace and bowled by Mark Wood in the eighth over, England were in command of the game.

Since his heavy scoring on the last tour of England three years ago, the 26-year-old Hope has managed just three half-centuries in his last 35 innings while averaging 23.

In need of a rebuild after stumbling to lunch on 35 for three, West Indies were revived after the break through Blackwood and Chase, denying England any success inside the first hour.

Unbeaten at the interval on 12, Chase exuded caution with a single four in 88 balls and just over two hours at the crease.

Archer, recalled for another spell approaching the first hour, eventually removed Chase with a snorter in the fourth over after the drinks break, the right-hander managing only to fend a catch to wicketkeeper Jos Buttler.

But England’s hopes of running through the Windies middle order were then dashed as Blackwood found an ally in Dowrich and together they steered the tourists to tea at 143 for four.

Dowrich rode his luck, however. He survived a close lbw shout on two off off-spinner Dom Bess and was adjudged caught at first slip in the next over trying to evade a lifter from Archer, only to be reprieved by DRS with replays showing the ball had struck the batsman’s elbow.

Caught at first slip off a no-ball from Stokes in the England captain’s first over of a new spell after tea, Dowrich was undone by a ripper off the very next delivery, and snaffled by Buttler moving to his right.

Unbeaten on 88 at the final drinks break, Blackwood looked a sure bet for three figures before one of his few moments of indiscretion cost him dearly.

The second Test starts today at Old Trafford in  Manchester.