Stokes the foundation as England take 71-run lead

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Tea England 194 (Stokes 60, Roach 5-72) lead West Indies 123 (Stokes 6-22) by 71 runs
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Ben Stokes struck a bristling half-century and Kemar Roach claimed a five-wicket haul before two lower-order partnerships helped England gain a useful first-innings lead in the third Investec Test. With the sun coming out to ease conditions for batting after a rain-swept start to the second day, the series decider at Lord’s was tantalisingly poised.

West Indies were again left to rue mistakes in the field, as Stokes was dropped on 24. He then combined with Jonny Bairstow to lift England towards parity, although when Stokes fell, Shannon Gabriel hitting his stumps for the second time in an over (the first coming off a no-ball), England were only five runs ahead.

That lead was stretched beyond expectations as the last two wickets added a further 60 runs, with Stuart Broad’s 38 – including sixes launched into the Tavern and Mound Stands – becoming the second-highest contribution of the innings.

Jason Holder eventually put down the tail-end insurrection with his third and fourth wickets to finish an extended middle session and, in bright sunshine, there were plenty of overs remaining in which West Indies could attempt to wipe off the deficit. Not since the 2005 Ashes Test had both sides been dismissed at Lord’s for less than 200 in the first innings; on that occasion, Australia’s 384 second time around was decisive.

Earlier on, in stubbornly overcast conditions, batting was seldom straightforward – even if Stokes’ powerful stroke-making sometimes made it look so – but West Indies once again gave England another potentially crucial let-off. With Holder having just removed one of his three slips, Gabriel drew a thick edge from Stokes that flew towards the freshly created gap and although Kyle Hope flung himself across for a one-handed catch he couldn’t hold on.

Holder immediately reinforced the cordon but the chance had gone. If Stokes had fallen, England would have been 65 for 6; instead the sixth-wicket pair put on 56, the joint-highest partnership of the match.

With rain interrupting the morning session, during which Roach removed Dawid Malan, play did not get back underway until 2.15pm. Stokes was dropped from the second ball after the resumption and then proceeded to rub it in on his way to a sixth 50-plus score of the summer.

Stoke and Bairstow have been England’s most prolific pairing since the start of 2016 and they took England into three figures. Stokes’ check-drive to move to 49 was the shot of a man in form and his next delivery was cut powerfully to the cover sweeper to bring up his fifty, which followed on from career-best figures with the ball on the first day.

Bairstow had looked less comfortable, his outside edge beaten several times by Roach, who then went wide on the crease to arrow the ball in and win an lbw decision – Bairstow reviewed in vain, Hawk-Eye showing it to be hitting leg stump flush.

Things threatened to go maddeningly wrong for West Indies a few overs later, when Gabriel brought a beast of a delivery back in from round the wicket to hit Stokes’ off stump, only for replays to confirm he had overstepped. Gabriel puffed out his cheeks, lugged his sizeable frame back to the top of his mark… and two balls later sent a near-90mph ball straight through Stokes’ defences again, ending any thoughts the allrounder might get on the batting honours board (for a second time) as well.

England had, by that stage, crept into the lead and although Moeen Ali did not last long, wafting Roach to gully to complete the bowler’s five-for, the ninth-wicket stand pushed the advantage from ‘slender’ towards ‘handy’. Shane Dowrich dropped Roland-Jones on 11, a poor effort moving to his right, although he only lasted four more balls before edging Holder. Broad and James Anderson then made merry to add another 31.

Only 4.2 overs were possible during the morning skirmish, although that was enough time for West Indies to take their fifth wicket. The start of play was delayed by 15 minutes, which was a commendable effort from the groundstaff after a heavy shower, and when the teams did get out, with the floodlights blazing in the gloom, England managed to add 18 runs for the loss of Malan before the forecast bad weather closed in again.

Malan struck one crisp cover drive for four off Gabriel but was undone a few minutes before play was curtailed. Roach produced another demanding ball from the Nursery End – similar to that which did for Alastair Cook on the first evening – holding its line up the slope to take the outside edge. While Malan managed only 20, it did at least mean he had doubled the first-innings contribution of England’s top five. (ESPNCricinfo)

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