|First Test, day two, Ageas Bowl|
|England 204: Stokes 43, Holder 6-42, Gabriel 4-62|
|West Indies 57-1|
|West indies trail by 147|
England were dismissed for 204 thanks to West Indies’ captain Jason Holder’s superb 6-42 on day two of the first Test at an empty Southampton.
Holder, who at one stage took 3-1 in 14 deliveries, was backed up by 4-62 from the pacy Shannon Gabriel.
On a pitch offering plenty for the bowlers, England’s batsmen showed obvious signs of rustiness in their first Test since the coronavirus lockdown.
Captain Ben Stokes was dropped twice in his 43, wicketkeeper Jos Buttler briefly impressed for 35, and it needed a last-wicket stand of 30 between Dom Bess, who made 31 not out, and James Anderson to carry England past 200.
England were then not at their best with the ball, with West Indies moving to 57-1, 147 behind.
On a grey, murky day, the floodlights were on throughout, and bad light forced the close with 26.3 overs still remaining.
The weather is forecast to improve on Friday, meaning the tourists could get the best batting conditions.
However, with the surface already showing signs of uneven bounce, they also face the disadvantage of having to bat last.
Impressive Windies land first blow
The circumstances in which this match is being played mean neither side have had ideal preparations – England’s training camp involved one internal practice match and West Indies’ two.
In conditions that should have suited England – cool, damp and the ball holding the upper hand over bat – West Indies had much the better day, displaying all the discipline, application and organisation that helped them take the series when these two sides met in the Caribbean 18 months ago.
They bowled a fuller length than England, then suffered only one setback in an evening session that could have posed a real danger to their batsmen.
West Indies’ intelligent use of the review system also helped them overturn five decisions during the day.
England still have the opportunity to fight their way back into the contest, especially if they make early inroads on Friday.
However, the performance of tall seamer Holder has only enhanced the suspicion that the omitted Stuart Broad would have been a real asset to England this surface.
Holder trumps Stokes in battle of all-rounders
One subplot of the series is the contest between Holder and Stokes, ranked one and two respectively among Test all-rounders and the captains in this match.
While at one stage it looked like Stokes would hold England’s batting together, he became the first victim of a Holder burst that ripped the guts from the middle order.
Holder had earlier trapped Zak Crawley lbw and got Ollie Pope to poke behind, and returned to end a sixth-wicket partnership of 67 between Stokes and Buttler.
Finding seam movement and bounce from a full length, Holder got Stokes to push at one, resulting in a nick, then produced a beauty to take the edge of Buttler, with wicketkeeper Shane Dowrich taking an excellent one-handed diving catch.
When Holder overturned an unsuccessful lbw shout against Jofra Archer, it completed an England slide from 154-5 to 157-8.
The combative Bess played some punchy strokes but was left stranded when Gabriel, who took the first three wickets, returned to splatter the stumps of last man Anderson.
England fail to find their stride
England’s disappointment will be compounded by the fact that several players made starts but did not go on to make telling contributions.
The lack of match practice is perhaps one reason for that, but that excuse will look thin if West Indies post any sort of total on Friday.
After England resumed on 35-1, Rory Burns made 30 before getting too far across to Gabriel, while the battle between Joe Denly and Crawley had two losers as Denly was bowled by Gabriel for 18 and Crawley played across the line to depart for 10.
Pope looked fluent before a loose stroke and Stokes was dropped on 14 and 32, the second of which, by Shamarh Brooks at cover, was as simple a chance as you will see at this level.
Overall, England looked a little flat, not matching West Indies’ energy in the field or busyness between the wickets.
The returning Anderson plugged away to have John Campbell lbw after seeing two decisions overturned. Mark Wood bowled at speeds of 95mph, but Archer too often was too short.
‘I still watch England from behind the curtains’ – what they said
England bowler Mark Wood on BBC Test Match Special: “We haven’t had the best day so there is plenty to do.
“They bowled well and you have got to give them credit, but 204 wasn’t on the radar. We’d have liked 250 or 300.”
Former England captain Michael Vaughan: “A great day for the West Indies. I would suggest England are 70-100 runs light.
“When the ball moves around, I still watch this England team from behind the curtains when they bat. Let’s be honest – from the cricket we have seen, the West Indies have played with more discipline.”
“It wasn’t easy. There were some good balls but once again England have allowed the opposing team well into the game with a few weak dismissals.”
West Indies limited-overs all-rounder Carlos Brathwaite: “Jason Holder challenged both the stumps and outside edge. He bowled with immaculate consistency, with length and skill, as well as swinging it both ways.”