Jermaine Blackwood’s 95 led the West Indies chase of 200 on a thrilling day five in Southampton, as the tourists took a 1-0 series lead over England.
He fell short of a second test century after chipping Ben Stokes to James Anderson at mid off, but the damage was already done as he left the crease with the West Indies ten runs away from victory in a gripping conclusion to a back and forth test match.
It could however have been a very different story however. A Jofra Archer-inspired England enjoyed the better of the morning session; his cameo of 23 helping to set a total of 200 for Jason Holder’s side, before a hostile spell of bowling threatened to make light work of the West Indian batsmen.
Both he and new ball partner Anderson threatened with the new ball and Archer made the first impact, striking John Campbell on the toe with a yorker. Whilst the original LBW decision was overturned- the ball pitching outside leg stump- Campbell went off shortly after with an injury to his foot.
He then made his mark on the other opening batsman, a length ball bursting through Kraigg Braithwaite’s defences and clattering into the stumps. Archer was in the mood and it was game on.
Two overs later Archer struck again, a full ball swinging in and trapping Shamarh Brooks plumb in front for nought. If the tourists were to win, the middle order would have to do the heavy lifting.
At the other end, Shai Hope had looked in good nick as he drove Anderson through the covers twice. But England’s tails were up and Mark Wood struck in his first over, an inswinger breaching a loose drive and knocking over middle and off.
West Indies were three down, with Campbell retired hurt, and the match seemed to be motoring towards an England win as the players left the field for lunch.
A defiant afternoon session partnership between Blackwood and Roston Chase would prove to be the difference. Blackwood’s innings, full of guts and attractive strokeplay, was not without its chances. He was put down by Stokes at slip, who tried to anticipate a cut shot off Dom Bess by moving towards point- the chance came to his left and could only be parried up to fall to the grass.
The second chance was perhaps worse, this time on 20 and off Stokes’s bowling as Jos Buttler dropped a gloved chance down the leg side, the case for Ben Foakes to take the gloves growing slightly stronger.
The pair settled down after that, Chase ticking along, with England trying to target a perceived weakness against the short ball. At the other end, Blackwood cut and pulled his way through the afternoon session, and the pair put on 73 to put West Indies in a commanding position. The partnership was ended by Archer, a hostile spell topped off by a textbook bouncer that rose and took the edge of a helpless Chase for an easy catch behind.
Shane Dowrich was next in, and as he and Blackwood continued to tick along past a half century partnership, Stokes took it upon himself to try and drag England back into the match after tea. Dowrich reached 20 before edge to Dom Sibley at slip- only to be given a lifeline as replays showed Stokes overstepping. Much like Sibley the day before, who survived a no ball wicket before getting out next ball, the reprieve was short lived. Stokes got the very next ball to reverse away and Dowrich could only edge behind to Buttler.
Amidst all this Blackwood had sailed past the half century mark and as he and new partner Holder took the tourists towards victory, thoughts inevitably turned towards a century. But with just five runs to go, and 11 runs left of the 200 target, he played one slapdash shot too many. Blackwood had done enough though, and Campbell joined Holder to get West Indies over the line, with several limped singles and a cut shot flashed past gully.
A well deserved win for Holder’s side was sealed with a final single, concluding an enthralling return for test cricket. A historic win for West Indies, but also a significant moment for cricket. It was well worth the wait.