England levelled the Test series in a thrilling final-session finish in Manchester, giving themselves a fantastic chance of regaining control of the Wisden Trophy from the West Indies. The deciding third Test begins on Friday at the same venue. It should be an exciting end to a great series and we have our preview and predictions for the final Test at Old Trafford here.
Ben Stokes is currently at the height of his powers. After his bar brawl in Bristol a few years ago, he has completely turned around his career with highlight performances one after the other. He won England the 2019 World Cup, then won his country a thrilling Ashes Test at Headingley in one of the best run chases in history. His performance in the second Test wasn’t far off these.
He scored 176 off 356 balls in the first innings, showcasing impeccable technique against a disciplined West Indies attack and a moving ball. On the second day, he completely changed tact, gradually changing gears to set up England’s declaration. In the second innings, he opened the batting with England needing quick runs and delivered a 57-ball, unbeaten 78.
In cricket, it’s called following the ball when a captain places a fielder in a position immediately after the ball has been hit there. I’m doing something similar by suggesting Stokes as England’s top batsman in the first innings. His confidence, hunger and momentum resembles Steven Smith’s in the previous Ashes series. There is no reason Stokes can’t keep that up.
Moving on to the teams. England finally broke their rut with a quality performance on the final day. Stuart Broad and Chris Woakes were the pick of the bowlers, providing timely breakthroughs with the new ball. Jofra Archer has been made available by England after he had a second negative test for Covid-19. He was made unavailable for the second Test after breaking England’s biosecurity protocol by visiting his home in Brighton.
England’s pace attack for the third Test could go back to their three best bowlers in Broad, Archer and James Anderson, who was rested for the second Test. Along with Dominic Bess and Stokes to chip in, England’s bowlers should be able to take 20 wickets. Broad bowled 38 overs in the second Test.
From a batting standpoint, England are unlikely to tinker with their top order. Dominic Sibley scored 120 off 372 balls in the first innings, leaving the moving ball well and forcing West Indies’ bowlers closer to the stumps. Even though Zak Crawley scored a combined 11 runs in the Test, he should continue to stay at No. 3 with England captain Joe Root at No. 4.
West Indies’ fast bowlers looked a bit fatigued in the Manchester Test. Shannon Gabriel, in particular, was a bit jaded. With such a quick turnaround time between Tests, that workload might be a bit too much to handle.
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