Spirited England settle for draw


England appeal for lbw
England were bidding for their first Test victory in Antigua
First Test, Sir Vivian Richards Stadium, Antigua (day five):
England 311 & 349-6 dec: Crawley 121, Root 109
West Indies 375 & 147-4: Bonner 38*, Holder 37*; Leach 3-57
Match drawn

England had to settle for a draw in the first Test against West Indies despite a spirited performance on the final day in Antigua.

A bold declaration from captain Joe Root, who reached his 24th Test hundred in the morning session, gave England the chance to push for an unlikely victory.

His side took four wickets for eight runs either side of tea to boost their hopes, spinner Jack Leach claiming 3-57 on a lifeless pitch.

But West Indies, who did not attempt to chase their target of 286 in 71 overs, were steadied by a stubborn, unbroken stand of 80 between first-innings centurion Nkrumah Bonner and all-rounder Jason Holder, which lasted 35.5 overs.

Crucially England did not review an lbw appeal against Holder with 22 overs left. Had they done so he would have been dismissed by Leach.

Instead he ended 37 not out and Bonner unbeaten on 38, the players shaking hands with the score 147-4.

England’s cause was hurt by the absence of fast bowler Mark Wood, who sat out the innings with an elbow injury and is now a doubt for the second Test, which begins on Wednesday in Barbados.

Earlier, despite the loss of five wickets, England added 132 runs before declaring 20 minutes before lunch on 349-6.

Root turned his 84 not out overnight into 109, while Dan Lawrence scored 37 from 36 balls in an enterprising cameo as England sought quick runs.

The Test may have ended in a draw but England’s improved performance on the final two days offers some momentum as they look to move on from their humiliating 4-0 Ashes defeat.

Pitch thwarts spirited England

With the bowlers at their disposal, England did all that could realistically have been expected of them in their quest for victory on the final day.

Root declared earlier than expected and slow left-armer Leach in particular bowled well, but the tourists were thwarted by a docile pitch.

After West Indies slowly reached 59-0, Ben Stokes removed Brathwaite, getting him lbw with a ball that scuttled low, but there was little mischief in the pitch thereafter.

Wood’s extra pace was missed and, without it, seamers Chris Woakes and Craig Overton were ineffective.

Opener John Campbell was caught at mid-on trying to whack Leach over the top and Jermaine Blackwood was out lbw slogging across the line – two wretched strokes that helped England’s cause.

However, once Bonner and Holder played themselves in they were able to defend with relative ease, even with fielders surrounding the bat.

England would have had a glimmer had they reviewed the lbw decision against Holder but Root, wary after earlier burning two reviews on optimistic lbw shouts, was unmoved. The technology showed Leach’s delivery would have hit leg stump.

Root held on until there were only five balls left before accepting the cause was lost.

Positives for England

England were aggressive from the outset and opener Zak Crawley, who resumed on 117, was bowled trying to strike a Holder yorker for 121.

That ended a stand of 201 between Crawley and Root, but the England captain continued to one of his most straightforward Test centuries.

The chanceless knock saw him overtake Alastair Cook in the list of most Test tons as England captain and will silence any debate around his return to number three in the batting order.

Perhaps most impressive was Lawrence’s brief innings which gave England impetus. Having been recalled to the side for this Test, the 24-year-old cracked the ball over the off-side from the outset and hit one extravagant six.

This series has been billed as a new era for England after a run of one win in 14 Tests.

Lawrence’s innings, plus the performances of Leach, Crawley and first-innings centurion Jonny Bairstow are positives.

There is still much concern about Woakes potency overseas and Overton’s wicket-taking threat at this level, while Stokes, who has been nursing a side injury since the fourth Ashes Test in January, bowled 41 overs in the match.

England must hope that does not come back to hurt them.

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