Sibley and Stokes steady the England ship after Archer goes overboard
Unbeaten 118-run partnership gives home side advantage over West Indies on day one
West Indies’ Shannon Gabriel and England’s Dom Sibley share a joke during play on the first day of the second Test at Old Trafford. Photograph: Jon Super/AFP via Getty Images
Day 1 of 5: England 207-3 (D Sibley 86no, B Stokes 59no) v West Indies
Most of the drama took place before the captains bumped elbows after the toss. By then West Indies had decided that they were going to field, Sam Curran was in the England team and Jofra Archer was in isolation. It will be a long five days for Archer, who is experiencing a few bumps along the way.
Somehow this happened to precocious, charismatic cricketers like Ben Stokes or Andrew Flintoff before him. Stuff also happens to Archer, it seems. Perhaps he should have detoured to Barnard Castle. In the circumstances the ECB were left with no choice but to omit him. No doubt he has been chastised by the management and himself; hopefully he will be available for selection again for the third Test.
As a consequence England’s pacemen are now rotating like a tree saw. Despite an extraordinary turn of events the selectors did not swerve from their 13-man squad (it remains a minor mystery why they feel obliged to name a squad at the moment, since nobody is going to be sent away). So both Mark Wood and James Anderson remained at rest. There followed some dour cricket after a late start in dank, chilly conditions. Yes, Dom Sibley scored runs, 86 of them with power to add.
After a stuttering start England were very happy to be 207 for three at the close at 7.30pm when the sun made its first appearance. By then West Indies were toiling, not least because Shannon Gabriel, the man of the match at the Ageas Bowl, was suffering; he could only bowl 10 overs. Too often their pace attack did not invite a shot.
Another slow burner of a Test may be in store. This was the case at the Ageas Bowl, in a match that became more engrossing as the days passed. Hopefully that pattern will be replicated here. A tacky pitch suggests that there may be just enough going on out there for enough wickets to fall; moreover we know that draws are now as fashionable as bell bottoms.
Complaints about the stodginess of Sibley’s batting are invalid but it is better not to watch him on a comfortable sofa. There will be nothing but praise and admiration from the England camp; they tried the D’Artagnan option with Jason Roy last summer and it did not work.
Sibley has been enlisted to bat in his own way, where elegance is not the prime consideration, and he has made a good fist of it in his brief Test career. He is a squatter rather than a swatter. And he is brave, for it takes fortitude to bat with the knowledge that a Test century is likely to require five or six hours of graft rather than two or three hours of merrily rolling the dice.
England had an hour to bat before lunch after a late start and had nearly managed this when Rory Burns missed the second delivery bowled by the off-spinner, Roston Chase, and was given out lbw, a decision that was foolishly reviewed. After the break Chase was soon on a hat-trick as Zak Crawley tickled his first delivery into the hands of Jason Holder at leg slip.
Chase was finding a little turn on a surface that retained some dampness. It often happens at Old Trafford that the ball turns more on the first day than the second and third. Chase was given four more overs by his captain in his first spell. A really high-quality spinner would have had more in these conditions but here Holder soon reverted to his pacemen.
Returning captain Joe Root settled in smoothly enough, scoring more quickly than his partner, but even then the combination of this pitch and a lush outfield dictated that progress was pedestrian. With Gabriel struggling the opportunity to wear down a restricted attack was clear.
On 23, Root was dismissed by the West Indies’ most dangerous paceman on the day, Alzarri Joseph. The first ball of a new spell from Joseph was very full and it swung a little; Root middled it straight to square cover and may have lamented a missed opportunity for four runs; the next one was almost as full and it also swung; Root drove again and edged to Holder at second slip, a rusty shot perhaps.
By now Sibley was in his groove, leaving just about everything wide of off stump suspiciously, blocking the straight ones watchfully. He times the ball sweetly square on the leg side, which is his most productive area, and he exploits a vacant third man gratefully. Gradually the Sibley system started working more smoothly.
Stokes was also careful at the start of his innings. For the most part he shunned the elaborate movements around the crease that he used against Holder and Kemar Roach in the first Test; he, too, was prepared to play the long game though in the over before tea he suddenly decided to pop down the pitch to Chase and hit him for a straight six.
There was some acceleration in the long third session, the value of Sibley’s determined patience becoming ever more obvious. Sibley had one escape. On 68 he drove at a full delivery from Gabriel, who had gingerly returned to the playing area and the subsequent edge flew to the usually reliable Holder at second slip; the ball hit his hand and fell to ground.
Meanwhile Stokes was in businesslike mood after his two in-form 40s at Southampton. He noted a lack of ruthlessness about England’s batting there and, even though Root is back, he was determined to lead the way. – Guardian