Ben Stokes destroys West Indies as England take charge in Barbados

Quickfire century from all-rounder before bowler Matthew Fisher makes dream debut

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A charismatic century from Ben Stokes piled pressure on the West Indies in Barbados, before England debutant Matthew Fisher enjoyed an unforgettable introduction to international cricket.

Stokes enjoyed a rowdy knock on day two of the second Test, plundering 120 at nearly a run-a-ball with six sixes launched over the ropes and 11 boundaries.

Building on the earlier work of Joe Root, who finished with a fine 153, Stokes powered his way to a first century in 20 months as the tourists declared on a formidable 507 for nine at the Kensington Oval.

England bowlers rarely have the luxury of defending such a total – this was only the third time they had breached 500 since August 2017 – and new boy Fisher made it pay with a wicket from his second ball.

The 24-year-old from York was brought on tour for experience after the decision to drop James Anderson and Stuart Broad and was only added to the XI here after Craig Overton’s last-minute withdrawal.

Having watched the West Indies bowlers toil for 150 bruising overs he saw his first ball pushed to the boundary, only to take John Campbell’s inside edge with his next delivery.

That was the only wicket to fall as the hosts reached 71 at the close and there is plenty of hard work ahead to turn England’s strong position into a winning one.

There was a touching moment when Fisher pointed to the sky as he celebrated joyously with his new team-mates, with the seamer having lost his father Phil as a 14-year-old. Earlier, when Stokes had put the finishing touches to his 11th career ton, he had raised a bent middle finger in memory of his own late father Ged.

Both men were making their families, and their country, proud as they drove England on in Bridgetown. Fisher was later denied a second wicket by a tiny margin when nobody could be sure if Shamarh Brooks’ edge had been held cleanly by Zak Crawley.

The day began with Root in centre stage as he resumed on 119 not out, but it soon became clear that Stokes was intent on taking the role of leading man.

Beginning his innings from scratch following Dan Lawrence’s dismissal off the final ball of the previous evening, he got off the mark with a rollicking on-drive.

A textbook square drive and a tracer through extra cover off Kemar Roach confirmed that he was in the zone and he even showed off his subtler side with a neat reverse sweep off Veerasammy Permaul.

Against a weary attack on a friendly surface, he quickly settled for a more industrial approach. He smashed Permaul for two steepling sixes down the ground, bringing up his 50 with the second, which came to rest on the roof of the 3Ws Stand and was not seen again.

Stokes might have been stumped on 58 had Josh Da Silva not hesitated and the England all-rounder’s reaction spoke volumes, standing deep in his crease to the next ball and flogging it cross-batted into the Party Stand.

The England fans were in his thrall now, lapping up a 20-run over off Alzarri Joseph including a hat-trick of fours and another clean-struck maximum.

With a couple more deliveries he might have become the first Englishman to go from nought to 100 before lunch in a Test. Instead, he settled for becoming the second to pair 5,000 runs with 150 wickets, joining Sir Ian Botham, Sir Garfield Sobers, Kapil Dev and Jacques Kallis in a pantheon of great all-rounders.

Root, still playing an ego-free supporting hand, quietly passed 150 for a record 12th time in his career – eclipsing the mark set by predecessor Sir Alastair Cook – before Roach trapped him lbw.

Stokes was more restrained after losing his partner, nudging to three figures and taking in the acclaim of the 8,500 travelling fans before reverting to all-out attack.

He went down in a blaze of glory, falling short as he attempted to crunch Kraigg Brathwaite for a third consecutive six. Root was able to declare in a healthy position, with Ben Foakes and Chris Woakes getting handy runs, but knew the big challenge would be in the field.

Woakes saw his first over go for 10 before Campbell guided Fisher’s loosener to third man. Then came the bowler’s big moment. Finding a good length outside off stump, Fisher flicked the under edge of Campbell’s bat and watched elatedly as the new ball settled in Foakes’ gloves.

He came close to another after switching ends, Brooks getting the benefit of inconclusive replays after nicking low to slip. He signed off with five worthy overs under his belt, while fellow debutant Saqib Mahmood looked sharp during a tidy late burst.

Updated: March 17, 2022, 10:58 PM
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