Dom Sibley and Ben Stokes restored some calm for England after a rocky start to the second Test on and off the field on Thursday, putting on an unbeaten 126-run partnership to lead the team to 207-3 against West Indies on Day 1.
England began the day by excluding superstar paceman Jofra Archer from the match for breaching isolation protocols, before slumping to 81-3 on a decent batting track after losing the toss and then two batsmen in two balls to Roston Chase’s easy off-breaks.
Sibley, a right-hand opener content with just sticking around with his cautious style, was joined by Stokes midway through the second session and they plotted their way through 50.4 overs to the close at Old Trafford.
Sibley was on 86 not out — his second-highest Test score in just his eighth match — and Stokes was unbeaten on 59.
Leading 1-0 in the three-match series after a win in Southampton last week, the West Indies never quite lost control on the opening day’s play as they began their bid to clinch a first series in England in 32 years.
But their pacemen weren’t as threatening in gloomy conditions in Manchester as they were at the Rose Bowl a few days ago, with only Alzarri Joseph taking a wicket among them. It was a big one, too, as he enticed a drive from returning England captain Joe Root, who was caught in the slips for 23.
The radar of fellow fast bowler Shannon Gabriel, Man of the Match in Southampton with nine wickets, was off all day. He had to abort his run-up on his first intended ball of the innings, bowled a wide with the second, then went for four wides in the very same over.
Gabriel went off injured at the end of the morning session and never looked right after returning to the field, with another of his deliveries going so wide it stung the fingers of captain Jason Holder at second slip.
It was left to Chase to take a double, and they were in successive balls. He trapped opener Rory Burns (15) lbw with the last ball of the morning session — England went to lunch 29-1 after an hour’s play following a delayed start because of wet weather — and bagged Burns’ replacement, Zak Crawley, for a duck with the first ball after lunch. Crawley tried to help Chase around the corner and gave leg slip Jason Holder a gift catch.
Sibley, who plods along with a pragmatic style that sees him creep across his stumps when the bowler takes aim, frustrated the Windies in his 253-ball knock that has featured just four boundaries. He was dropped twice, on 44 at short-leg just before tea and then on 68 when he got a thick edge to Gabriel and Holder shelled it at second slip.
Stokes has also been patient in a sensible innings dictated by the conditions, except for when he cut loose by smashing Chase over the spinner’s head for six in the last over before tea.