The third and final test for the Wisden Trophy began on Friday 24 July. With both teams having won a test each, it was a level playing field for this deciding match.
Some interesting team selections and the ever-present effects of England’s weather set this match up to be tense, close and brilliant. England’s performance in the first match of the series showed little promise and left fans feeling deflated and not hopeful for the series but a brilliant second match levelled things out. This test was held in honour of Ruth Strauss, the wife of former England captain, Andrew Strauss, who lost her life to a rare form of lung cancer. Day 1 saw all players don red in addition to the foundations logo’s and money was raised throughout.
Team selection proved very interesting for both teams. The West Indies made one change, resting Alzarri Joseph in favour of Rahkeem Cornwall. England seemingly decided to change tactics and with Ben Stokes injured meaning he was unable to bowl for the test, Zak Crawley was rested. This opened up a position for another bowler and the decision was to go with Chris Woakes, presumably due to his adequate batting ability as well as his bowling. Sam Curran was rested and Mark Wood also stayed on the bench. The Windies won the toss and chose to bowl first.
Play got going despite the clouds but the first over was damaging for England. Sibley was dismissed for duck (b Roach) but at least it wasn’t a golden duck. Quick fact: duck comes from the number nought which resembles a duck egg and has been used in cricket since the 19th century! Root and Burns worked to push the score up slowly, with boundaries yet to scored. After two failed deliveries after pulling up short, Gabriel walked off the field seemingly with a hamstring injury! Play continued until a back shot from Burns saw Root call for a single only for him to get run out by Chase. However, his partnership with Burns added 46 runs which was a key contribution at this point. Stokes was soon dismissed by Roach – a milestone as this was his 200th test wicket – on just 20 runs however his partnership with Burns added a valuable 45. Throughout these dismissals, Burns was hanging on and eventually got himself a half century before he was dismissed on 57 runs (c Cornwall b Chase). This led to the strongest partnership of the day between Pope and Buttler who added 136 to the score. Both were looking to prove themselves after disappointing performances in the prior two tests. Pope quickly achieved a half century with some brilliant, if not risky, shots including some stellar 4s. His half century was followed by Buttler’s who also played some remarkable shots including some brilliant 6s. A couple of lbw reviews almost got them both out, but they survived them all. Play was stopped due to bad light and saw the pair walk off with Pope on 91 and Buttler on 56. Some phenomenal work from the two; the score was on 258-4 at stumps.
Day 2 opened with Pope and Buttler back out together. The former eager to get a century and the latter keen to continue the way they had left it the previous evening. However, England’s morning of cricket didn’t quite pick up in the same manner. Pope went out having added nothing to his score (b Gabriel) after a dropped catch from Cornwell left Gabriel ready to claim back the wicket. Unfortunate really as all things being equal, had the umpires not stopped play the previous evening, Pope may have got his 2nd test century. Woakes was soon dismissed on just 1 run before Buttler and Archer followed in quick succession. However, all was not lost and a 76-run partnership between Bess and Broad allowed England to reach 300. Some great play from Broad saw him achieve a half century before he was caught out on 62 (c Blackwood b Chase). Anderson added another 11 runs before he was dismissed (c Cornwall b Holder) leaving England all out for 369.
The Windies went into bat, however a lucky catch from Root off of a Broad ball saw Brathwaite dismissed on just 1 run. Campbell and Hope then began a partnership which saw them add 43 runs to the score before Campbell was dismissed after he hit straight to Burns in the gulley giving Archer a wicket. Hope and Brooks were dismissed soon, both from Anderson balls and Buttler catches. This left the Windies on 59-4 and things weren’t looking great. This continued with Chase dismissed on 9 after an lbw from Broad. However, a partnership got going between Blackwood and Holder which saw the pair add 37 to the total before Woakes took his first wicket dismissing Blackwood. The day ended with Dowrich and Holder in play and the Windies desperate to avoid the follow on.
Day 3 saw the pair come back out and add 68 to the total. During this play another great catch from Pope almost saw Holder dismissed before it became clear Woakes had bowled a no ball; potentially costly for England. Soon after though, Broad took his 3rd wicket getting an lbw for Holder, however the Windies had managed to avoid the follow on at this point. Cornwall and Roach were both dismissed quickly after, giving Broad a 5-wicket haul. This was added to after a catch from Woakes dismissed Dowrich leaving the Windies all out and giving Broad his most successful home soil haul of 6 wickets. A brilliant partnership from Burns and Sibley – the first 100+ opening partnership in a home test since 2016 – put England in a strong position, later cemented by a half century from Root before a straight up hit from Burns saw him caught out by a sub on 90 runs. England declared on 226-2 leaving the Windies trailing by an impressive 398. The last 45 minutes of day 3 did not disappoint as the Windies came out to bat. An incredible start from England saw them take two wickets before bad light stopped play. Campbell was out for a duck and night watchman Roach was dismissed on 4, both by Broad. Day 3 ended with the Windies on 10-2 and facing an uphill battle. Play was unfortunately abandoned on day 4 due to rain.
Day 5 was set to be exciting and tense. England had to take 8 wickets and there was no guarantee that the weather would be on their side. A few quick run offs in the morning session due to sudden showers delayed play a bit, but afterwards the weather settled and made for a remarkable final day of the series. A good partnership from Brathwaite and Hope saw them add 35 to the score before the former was dismissed with an lbw from Broad which gave him is 500th test wicket! Woakes then took two more wickets, Hope and Brooks, leaving the Windies on 79-5. Next, Woakes bowled to Blackwood but a slow run from Chase saw him run out after a phenomenal throw from Bess. Holder was then dismissed by Woakes making the score 99-7 before Dowrich and Cornwall also went out with lbw’s from Woakes giving the bowler a 5-wicket haul! Finally, Broad took his tenth wicket of the match, with a catch from Buttler, by dismissing Blackwood confirming England as the winners of the series and leaving the Wisden trophy in their hands, which will now be the Richards-Botham Trophy.
Analysis: The West Indies played well, but England played better.
A thrilling last day of cricket meant England were victorious. At the end of the day, they were stronger and deservedly won the match. A new frontier for test cricket due to the bio-secure bubble meant for a lot of unknown but despite the lack of crowd and rapturous noise on every dismissal and boundary, play proceeded and did not disappoint. It was a brilliant start to test cricket this summer. Here’s looking to the next series, starting on August 5th against Pakistan where I anticipate a similar team and some even stronger play from the boys! It has been just wonderful to have live cricket back!
Result: England win by 269 runs and England win series 2-1.
England: 469 & 226-2dec
West Indies: 197 & 129